The Oklahoma City Thunder earned a very business-like win over the Miami Heat, 93-75. In an interesting turn of events, the same day we asserted that the Thunder were turning into a one way team, they went out and put forth their best defensive effort in quite some time. To be sure, the Heat are missing Chris Bosh and are still integrating Goran Dragic, but they had recently dominated the Cleveland Cavaliers with their guard-oriented offense, so it was impressive to watch the Thunder defense take away much of their perimeter attack.
The win puts the Thunder a full 10 games over .500 at 40-30, a mark that many thought they might not reach. They are now 3 games up on the New Orleans Pelicans, who saw their own record fall to 37-33 after a loss to the Clippers on Sunday. Even with the return of Anthony Davis, it appears that the Pelicans are fading. Surprisingly, another team is surging late - the Phoenix Suns earned an upset win over the Dallas Mavericks, which has the effect of moving the Suns 1/2 game ahead of the Pelicans while hurting the Mavericks' hold on the 7th seed. Dallas is now only 3.5 games ahead of the Thunder with 12 OKC games remaining. OKC plays Dallas one more time this season, and it makes last week's loss to Dallas all the more painful.
In the rest of the West, the Portland Trail Blazers are reeling as both LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum sustained injuries over the weekend. They are in a virtual dead heat with the Clippers, who are hanging tough with the return of Blake Griffin to the line-up. L.A.'s win over the Pelicans moves them into the top half of the playoff line-up as they work toward 1st round home court advantage. Meanwhile, the Spurs dropped the hammer on their Eastern doppelgangers from Atlanta, and they too have an opportunity soon to jump ahead of Portland. Over these next few weeks, with the middle of the pack so tight, we could see the Spurs and Clippers move into the 4-5 spots as Houston and Portland try to hang on.
NBA standings and stats via NBA.com/stats