Thunder @ Heat preview (Game 81 of 82)

okc logo at heat-logo.jpg

  • When: Monday, 09 April 2018 at 6:30 pm CST
  • Where: American Airlines Arena, Miami, FL
  • TV: FSOK
  • Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 930 AM (Spanish))
  • Line: OKC -3.5 | O/U – 212

There was a moment on Saturday in which it almost seemed like the future of the Oklahoma City Thunder teetered in the balance. With about 33 seconds left in the third quarter of the Thunder vs. Rockets game, Paul George turned the ball over. On the other end of the court, Chris Paul shot and made a three-pointer. At the same time, George did that thing where you try to over-correct a mistake made on one end of the floor only compound the situation. In his zealousness to make-up the mistake of the turnover, George was overly aggressive on the close out of Paul and fouled him as he made the three-pointer. Four-point play completed and the Thunder found themselves down by 6 in what had been a back and forth affair in the 3rd quarter.

If felt like one of those sequences where the Thunder could’ve crumpled. There have been similar situations where a series of plays like that has turned into a landslide the Thunder could not dig themselves out of. Instead, George came down on the other end and made a lay-up while also getting fouled. He made the free throw and the Thunder headed into the final quarter only down by three.

The Thunder carried that small amount of momentum into the fourth and rode it all the way to a 6-point victory.  Had they lost, the Thunder would have been looking up at the playoff standings instead of still being the mix for home-court advantage. Now the Thunder have a magic number of 1 with two games to go. It hasn’t been easy. It hasn’t been pretty. But there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel. The Thunder just have to reach that light before the end of the season.

Previous Match-Ups: This is the 2nd and final meeting of the season between the Thunder and Heat. These two teams met about two and a half weeks ago, with the Thunder coming out victorious, 105-99. In that game, Russell Westbrook and Steven Adams carried the Thunder with 53 points and 25 rebounds combined between the two of them.

Looking At The Numbers

Rebounding – The Heat are one of the better defensive rebounding teams in the league, ranking 6th in that department. The Thunder are the best offensive rebounding team in the league. The battle between Steven Adams and Hassan Whiteside may be key to how this game plays out. Adams and Whiteside typically have pretty good games against each other, with neither one dominating the other.

Pace – The Thunder would probably be best playing a quicker brand of basketball than Miami in this game. Miami has the athletes, but their defensive principles call for them to play a slower brand of basketball. If the Thunder can speed up the pace a little, it may catch Miami off kilter defensively, which may lead to some easier opportunities for baskets.

One – This is the Thunder’s magic number to get a playoff berth. They have two opportunities to achieve this number themselves (they could also hope for the Timberwolves and Nuggets to lose). Might as well get it done tonight.

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