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2012-2013 Game 53 Preview: Thunder Get Their Last Shot at the Heat

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The day has finally come. Here's what could, literally, be our last shot at the heat until next winter or beyond.

LeBron's certainly getting into the spirit of the holiday....
LeBron's certainly getting into the spirit of the holiday....
William Bennett Berry

2012-2013 NBA Season
The Miami Heat (35-14)
The Oklahoma City Thunder (39-13)
February 14th, 2013
Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
7:00 PM CST
Turner Network Television Only
WWLS the Sports Animal (98.1), 104.3 The Ticket
Enemy Blogs: Hot Hot Hoops
Previous Meetings: Dec 25th (Heat Lead Season Series 1-0)
Injury Report: Mike Miller (Questionable), Udonis Haslem (Questionable)
Probable Starters
Mario Chalmers PG Russell Westbrook
Dwayne Wade SG Thabo Sefolosha
LeBron James SF Kevin Durant
Udonis Haslem (Shane Battier?) PF Serge Ibaka
Chris Bosh C Kendrick Perkins

The day has finally come. Here's what could, literally, be our last shot at the heat until next winter or beyond. A lot of things can happen between now and June. Injuries, upsets, and the like. But tonight? That's going to happen, no matter what. And I can't stand to see the Heat's 5 game win streak against Oklahoma City continue to survive for however long. The Thunder need to get this monkey off of their backs, and now.

Fortunately, circumstance may have helped them out tonight. Mike Miller missed Tuesday's game with the flu, and Udonis Haslem left the game with a quad contusion. Either could be in or out for tonight, as there's no official word on their status yet. Haslem's absence would have been a problem in the past, but with the Heat's recent signing of Chris Andersen, they've got the personnel to absorb the blow. However, should Haslem not play, the Heat will likely go smaller than usual. That's bad news for the Thunder, because they're susceptible to quicker bigs and the Heat are the only team in the league that can run with them on the open floor.

Nevertheless, the Thunder have the tools to win this game. The Heat can lose in a variety of three ways: They can shoot poorly (most likely), they can turn the ball over too much (second most likely), and they can lose the rebounding battle (happens all of the time, but rarely affects the outcome). In my opinion, the Thunder's best route to victory is forcing bad shots and controlling the paint. The Thunder like to pressure a lot, but it rarely works against teams who can handle it, and the Heat will take advantage of it for easy shots straight away. Rather, if they defend the paint, they take away the forte of Wade and James, and they can hopefully take advantage of the Heat's smaller size down there. But a strong man-to-man defense should take precedence over all else.

In any case, tonight's going to be a real humdinger, and you'd be a fool to miss it. It's anybody's game, but as a fan, I've got to go with my heart and say the Thunder will win a semi-defensive battle. Why? Because they have to.

Also, I wrote an article describing the differences between these two teams, so be sure to go check that out if you have a chance.

Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 99, Miami Heat 98.

If you are looking for tickets to upcoming games, you can find Oklahoma City Thunder tickets here.