Tonight, the assured Oklahoma City Thunder pursue inter-conference mastery over the precarious home-standing Miami Heat.
When these teams last met, Oklahoma City palpably disrupted Miami's offensive flow, limiting the Heat to just 36% FGM and 23% 3PM. Amid a night of magnified struggles, Miami's starters managed a scant 14 connects on 50 field-goal attempts.
Conversely, behind a free-flowing 24 assists on 37 made baskets, nine Thunder netted at least four points in a decisive 97-85 home win against the now 10-21 Heat.
If not for a robust 50-point offering from the South Beach reserves, Oklahoma City's already comfortable margin of victory would have been far greater.
To illustrate the breadth of OKC’s initial triumph, not even a down performance from Russell Westbrook (14 pts) could impede the Thunder’s upward trajectory. In Westbrook's stead, Enes Kanter (24 points, 10 rbs) and Domantas Sabonis (15 pts, 10 rbs) lifted the torch.
Without question, a streaking Oklahoma City iteration will seek to expand upon these prosperous results from the AmericanAirlines Arena —while also extending a three-game winning streak.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
This Christmas day was indeed merry for Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Westbrook's fifth consecutive double-double (31 pts, 15 ast) merged with a 42-point outburst from the "Stache Bros." to create a jolly 112-100 win vs. Minnesota.
To further sweeten the holiday cheer, Westbrook was recently named Western Conference Player of the Week for games played Dec. 19-25.
All of this, and the Thunder have won four-of-five contests heading into this evening’s tilt.
Coming off three days of rest, the Miami Heat have dropped four of their last five outings.
The latest setback came Dec. 23rd to the New Orleans Pelicans. In defeat, Miami’s tandem of Goran Dragic (23 pts) and Hassan Whiteside (18 rebs) kept the Heat in the thick of things.
Unfortunately, Anthony Davis (28 pts, 22 rebs) and Jrue Holiday (22 pts) did a bit more as New Orleans prevailed 91-87.
Miami ranks 28th overall in points per game (98.6), yet sports a respectable 12th ranked defense (103.5 p100p) and is 19th league-wide in NETRTG (-2.6).
If the Heat can generate offense against OKC’s top-ten defense (103.4 p100p) things could become interesting.
Oklahoma City Thunder Keys To Victory
- Place Whiteside in early foul trouble
- Own the paint
- Limit Miami’s perimeter looks
- Convert free throws
- Westbrook involves teammates early
Injury Reports/Projected Starting Linueups
The Miami Heat will be without Dion Waiters (groin), while Rodney McGruder (ankle) and Wayne Ellington (hamstring) are considered questionable. Oklahoma City will again be without the services of Victor Oladipo (wrist) and Cameron Payne (foot).
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
- PG: Russell Westbrook
- SG: Anthony Morrow
- SF: Andre Roberson
- PF: Domantas Sabonis
- C: Steven Adams
- PG: Goran Dragic
- SG: Josh Richardson
- SF: Justice Winslow
- PF: Josh McRoberts
- C: Hassan Whiteside
Oklahoma City Thunder: -2.5
Even with Oklahoma City’s earlier Nov. 7 victory, and the teams’ diametrically opposed records over the past five games, our partners at numberFire see Miami as a 54.9% favorite to prevail in tonight’s contest.
Additionally, the major outlets only favor the visiting Thunder by -2.5.
It behooves Oklahoma City to mitigate a well-rested Miami’s home-court advantage while setting an aggressive early tone in this east vs. west matchup.