Game 71 Pregame Primer: Thunder (43-27) vs. Heat (44-27)natashapanchal.com / Nanae Yamano / BobbyBrown318

Game 71 Pregame Primer: Thunder (43-27) vs. Heat (44-27)

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ESPN preview

Tip-off:

7:00 PM @ Visa Athletic Center, ? Fox Sports OK

Projected starting lineups:

Oklahoma CityMiami
PG: Chris PaulPG: Goran Dragic
SG: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander SG: Duncan Robinson
SF: Lu DortSF: Jimmy Butler
PF: Danilo Gallinari PF: Jae Crowder
C: Mike MuscalaC: Bam Adebayo

3 Big Things:

  • Seeding. OKC is now locked into the 4-6 range for seeding purposes, with matchups against Houston or Denver in the first round as the only two possibilities remaining (our Topic: Thunder buddies explain why the Clippers are not one here). Home court advantage doesn’t matter, and it’s unclear whether the Nuggets or Rockets will be trying to move up or down the standings in a way that would call for counter-maneuvering. The Thunder are running out of things to play for. Which leads me to the next Big Thing.
  • Rest. Most of the Thunder starters sat last game, and both of OKC’s true centers are again listed as questionable (Steven Adams and Nerlens Noel). The team’s oldest member (CP3) has been the exception, which is a little scary since an injury to him–more than any other player–would crush any playoff hopes for Oklahoma City. Of course, Chris “Let Me Hoop” Paul looked like he turned back the clock all season, crediting his plant basedness for a physical revitalization at age 35. If he insists on hooping again, here’s to another healthy, less-than-25 minute appearance.
  • The pick. With the 22nd-best record and games running out, it’s becoming more far-fetched for the Thunder to keep its top-20 protected pick in this draft. If two of the Jazz (appear to be tanking), Pacers, and Sixers don’t jump OKC in the standings, the first round selection will convey to Philadelphia. If Oklahoma City loses this one and the next, that keeping that pick is still a possibility.

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Game poll:

Are you glad the rumored Thunder/Heat trades involving CP3 and Danilo Gallinari never happened?

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