This also counts as an open thread, so feel free to post your thoughts during the game here.
Time: 7:00 PM Central Standard Time
Place: The Ford Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
TV: Fox Sports Net Oklahoma, Sun Sports
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1)
Backstory: Last time we saw the Heat, it was Mid-November. We beat them by a significant amount after they had a slammin' 7-2 start to the season. Now, the Heat have cooled off, with their record being 20-18, almost the same as our 21-18 record. But, thet do have a new weapon on their side in Rafer Alston. Alston, along with Chalmers, give the Heat 2 PGs to work with, and he's a marked improvement over Carlos Arroyo.
The Thunder have recently endured two close losses to the Spurs and Mavericks, and they need a win right now pretty badly. A win against the Heat would be huge, especially since they have to face Atlanta on Monday before they get a break against Minnesota and Memphis. They're on the 2nd game of a back to back, but it shouldn't affect them that much, as Dallas is only a couple hours away.
Below: Matchups, Prediction
Center: Nenad Krstic vs. Jermaine O'Neal
Jermaine O'Neal will get the best of Krstic inside, but he's pretty immobile. Thus, Krstic should be able to score a decent amount on jump shots, like he did last time when he scored 10. Expect their scoring production to be equal, while O'Neal grabs a few more rebounds.
This is probably the most intriguing and important matchups of the game. Green has been in a bit of a slump offensively lately, and it would help a huge amount if he could score well in this game. It would also help out a lot if Beasley could do the same for his team. Last time, they both knocked each other out and neither helped out their team much. But if one went off tonight, it would turn the tide of the game significantly.
No real comparison here. Quentin Richardson will pretty much be trumped by Durant in every stat and sense possible.
Shooting Guard: Thabo Sefolosha vs. Dwayne Wade
Sefolosha's mission isn't to beat Dwayne Wade in any category, or even shut him down. His mission is to slow him down. Every game, the offense runs through Wade, and it's clear that he's the best player the Heat have. If Sefolosha can make him largely ineffective offensively, like he did last time when Wade went 6-19 and 1-4 from the three point line, then the Thunder will have a much better shot that winning. Nevertheless, expect Wade to have much better stats in this game.
Point Guard: Russell Westbrook vs. Rafer Alston
However improved Alston may be over Chalmers, Westbrook is still a tier above those two. Given the tendency of driving to the basket during Heat games, I'd predict a big game for Westbrook, and an average game for Alston.
Battle of the Benches:
The Heat have a strong, tight bench, much like our own. I'd say they have about equal talent, though Chalmers does look threatening coming off of the bench.
Coaching and Intangibles:
As stated before, the Thunder are on the 2nd game of a back to back, but the trip from Dallas is short, so there should be minimal jet lag. The Heat are also on the 2nd game of a back-to-back after facing Houston, but again, Houston isn't all that far, so the jet lag should be minimal. Still, the advantage goes to the Thunder, because they're at home.
Still, I don't think a point guard will make a huge difference in this game. Dwayne Wade has had huge problems against Sefolosha, and Michael Beasley had been completely shut down by Jeff Green. Jermaine O'Neal will probably feast inside, but his immobility will counteract that, and Krstic will be able to equal his scoring while shooting from midrange. The Heat are a good team, but they're counteracted by us at every turn.
Prediction: Oklahoma City 102, Miami 92
Yeesh, I'm just ready to start winning again!
How do you think the game will go? Vote in the Poll!
And, again, feel free to drop any comments you might have during, before, or after the game below. I'll be in the Ford Center cheering the team on, but I'll be back to write a recap later tonight. (Seriously this time!) Go Thunder!