Preview 74 of 82: Heat @ Thunder
Time: 7:00 PM CT
Radio: WWLS (98.1 FM OKC/97.1 FM Tulsa)
The Oklahoma City Thunder (43-30) will look to bounce back from Tuesday’s crushing loss to the Boston Celtics, returning home to Chesapeake Energy Arena to face the banged-up Miami Heat (39-33). This will be the first matchup between the teams this season.
Facing a Heat team that will be without Dwyane Wade, Hassan Whiteside, and Dion Waiters, the Thunder can ill afford to take Miami lightly. As seen on Tuesday — and numerous times throughout the 2017-18 season — Oklahoma City often struggles against teams that are without integral parts of their lineup. And with Tuesday’s loss, coupled with a four-game winning streak for the Pelicans, sliding the Thunder into fifth place in the Western Conference, taking care of a thin Heat rotation is of the utmost importance.
Tip-off is at 7:00 PM CT and will be televised on Fox Sports Oklahoma. The Thunder is a 7.5-point favorite at home according to Odds Shark.
- Andre Roberson: Out – Knee
- Dion Waiters: Out — Ankle
- Dwyane Wade: Out — Hamstring
- Hassan Whiteside: Out — Hip
Heat: Goran Dragic, Tyler Johnson, Josh Richardson, James Johnson, Bam Adebayo
Thunder O & D
Heat O & D
Stopping Dragic. With Miami missing Dwyane Wade, Hassan Whiteside, and Dion Waiters, the Heat will be primarily led by All-Star point guard Goran Dragic. He comes in averaging 17.6 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 4.8 assists per game and hitting 36 percent of his attempts from long range. He’s averaged 24 PPG over the last five games without his aforementioned teammates and has a history of getting into scuffles with Russell Westbrook. This is the guy to watch out for most.
The Other Guys. Tyler Johnson is another name to watch out for. He lit up the Knicks for 22 points on 4-of-6 shooting from downtown on Wednesday night and is capable of getting hot and scoring in bunches. Edmond’s own Josh Richardson will get plenty of opportunities and is a good three-point shooter. Wayne Ellington is averaging 15 PPG over the last five and is another guy that can cripple you from deep. Kelly Olynyk has put together a string of good games, including 26 PPG, 6.5 RPG, and 8 APG on 60 percent shooting from long distance over the last two games.
Abusing the Rookie. Bam Adebayo will start in place of Whiteside, which is welcomed news for Steven Adams. The 20-year-old rookie is an extremely athletic, yet raw, project — so Adams’ mouth should be watering when thinking of the match-up. OKC should look to Big Kiwi early and often, including in the second half. He’s been lighting teams up in the first two quarters before failing to get many touches after the break. The Thunder needs to make an effort to feed him all game long against a Heat team that has no one capable of stopping him.
The OK3. Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony combined for 64 points on 23-of-53 (43 percent) shooting against the Celtics, another decent if not collectively uninspired effort. I like their matchups tonight and they might actually pull together a nice combined effort if they simply stay within themselves. Beating banged-up teams that have no business staying in games against the Thunder starts with these three, and OKC could be in for another long, frustrating night if they don’t set the tone early. Adams is every bit as important when it comes to coming out hot but he’s not usually the issue there. The stars should come out aggressive and I think they’ll get the job done in a game the Thunder desperately needs to win. (I’ll eat these words in the recap if I must.)
Make the Free Throws. I mean.