Time: 6:30 PM CT
Radio: WWLS (98.1 FM OKC/97.1 FM Tulsa)
The Oklahoma City Thunder (46-34) is on the road in Miami tonight, facing the Heat (43-37) with an opportunity to lock up a playoff spot. In order to secure an appearance in the postseason, all the Thunder must do is take care of business in a winnable game. As most fans know, it’s never really that simple.
Fresh off Saturday’s triumph in Houston, the Thunder will look to ride another strong performance by the OK3 of Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony. The trio combined for 70 points against the Rockets — a level of offensive production that would go a long way toward disposing of a Heat team that has gone 14-15 since February 1. Miami was blown out by the hapless New York Knicks in their last outing, proving that, despite having a playoff spot secured in the Eastern Conference, they’re not exactly playing at a high level at this particular point in time. OKC is certainly in a position to take advantage.
Tip-off is set for 6:30 PM CT and the game will be televised on Fox Sports Oklahoma. The Thunder is currently a 4-point favorite according to Bovada.
- Andre Roberson: Out – Knee
- Dion Waiters: Out — Ankle
Heat: Goran Dragic, Tyler Johnson, Josh Richardson, James Johnson, Hassan Whiteside
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Thunder O & D
Heat O & D
March 23: OKC 105, MIA 99 [BOX SCORE]
The Big Men. Miami was without Hassan Whiteside in the Thunder’s win on March 23, but he will be in the starting lineup for the Heat tonight. The big man comes in averaging 14 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks this season, and will be a handful on both sides of the basketball for Steven Adams. Big Kiwi is coming off a 12 point, 8 rebound performance against the Rockets, but he sat the entirety of the fourth quarter after getting shaken up earlier in the game. Billy Donovan said it was nothing more than a personnel decision but OKC could be in trouble if Adams is less than 100 percent in this match-up with Whiteside. This is something to watch.
Defending the Perimeter. As is the case in most games, the Thunder will need to keep Miami from winning behind the three-point line. The Heat shoot 36 percent from downtown and have shooters like Rodney McGruder (44 percent), Wayne Ellington (39 percent), Josh Richardson (38 percent), Kelly Olynyk (38 percent), and Goran Dragic (37 percent) who are all more than capable of getting hot from deep. The Heat hit 13 shots from long distance against the Thunder on March 23.
Winning the Early Rounds. In the Thunder’s March 23 win over Miami, it took a 41-point fourth quarter to secure the six-point victory. Westbrook scored 17 points in the final frame alone, thrusting OKC to victory despite trailing after the third quarter. Given the Thunder’s struggles in the third quarter and crunch time, OKC should look to set the tone earlier and not rely on late-game heroics to seal the deal this time around. Miami has 28 clutch wins this season, fourth-best in the NBA.
Maintaining the D. The Thunder locked down in the fourth quarter on Saturday against Houston, holding the Rockets to 19 points on 8-of-21 (38 percent) shooting over the final 12 minutes. OKC could use another solid night on the defensive end, particularly against a Heat team that averages the second-most screen assists (11.5) per game. The Thunder will need to communicate and stay engaged, not allowing Miami to single out and exploit Carmelo Anthony. James Johnson dropped 23 points on 7-of-13 shooting on March 23, so they’re very well aware of how/where to attack the OKC defense.