Offensive Rating: Thunder – 110.1 (1st), Heat– 108.3 3rd)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 103.2 (12th), Heat – 100.6 (5th)
Pace: Thunder – 93.0 (6th), Heat – 91.7 (11th)
View from the enemy: Heat Index
What happened in Oklahoma City a week and a half ago was special. It was fun. But here’s the thing: Lose tonight and some of those good vibes built up from beating the Heat, Lakers and Bulls will be forgotten. We live in an immediate, a what-have-you-done-lately world and a loss tonight would mean back-to-back defeats for only the second time this season, coming directly after the best week of basketball the Thunder have played this season.
Now wouldn’t that be something?
The last meeting was all about the Thunder’s physicality and how they were far more ready and focused for the game than the Heat. Tonight, the Heat have taken some punches recently, heard how maybe they aren’t elite and are assuredly looking at this as a chance to prove a point. They may be without Dwyane Wade who is questionable, but either way, this team is obviously outstanding. They’ve won 17 straight at home, are hearing grumbles and haven’t forgotten the spanking OKC laid on them. By all appearances, the Thunder could be walking into a trap. This one could tell us a lot about OKC’s mental toughness.
Miami coming in: The Heat played last night beating the 76ers without Wade.
1. MVP. Tonight’s game could decide it. At least if Durant outplays LeBron a second time, I think the award might all but be wrapped up. The way KD smoked LeBron the first game immediately altered the landscape of the award and took if from being obviously LeBron’s to potentially Durant’s. If KD out-duels LeBron a second time and OKC wins, the buzz will be overwhelming. If LeBron wins and outplays Durant, then we’ll just have to wait and see how the next three weeks play out before deciding on it.
2. Bounce back. The Thunder haven’t dropped back-to-back games since early January. They’ve only done it once this season. With the home loss to the Grizzlies Monday, that’s going to be put to the test tonight more than ever.
3. Hidden messages. The Heat need to make a statement. They might be convinced they don’t need to and that they can coast into the postseason as is, but deep down, you know they want to re-establish the fear in other teams by whipping the Thunder tonight. And all the same, OKC has a chance to make a clear point that they might be the team to beat. Somebody’s saying something tonight.
Tip at 7:00 CT. Go Most Valuable Durant.