Oklahoma City vs Miami Heat
Time: 7:00 p.m. CDT
Location: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK
Broadcast: FS Oklahoma, NBA League Pass
If ever there was a team with an appropriate name for a big Thunder match-up, it’s this one because the heat is definitely on the Oklahoma City Thunder after letting the Boston Celtics slip through their fingers Tuesday night. The loss cost the Thunder a 6-game winning streak, their #4 spot in the Western Conference, and a chance to gain ground on the #3 seeded Portland Trail Blazers. As WTLC’s Chris Grenham put it, that Celtic loss left a mark.
Without a doubt, it’s gut-check time at the Peake tonight. The Thunder have developed a horrid habit this season of experiencing a mental letdown after disappointing losses as well as looking past lesser opponents when bigger prey looms on the horizon (the Thunder face their toughest division nemesis and rival, the Portland Trailblazers on Sunday), throw in a missing star on an opponent’s roster (Hassan Whiteside is out Friday and Dwayne Wade is a shoot-around decision), and you have all the ingredients for a bad Thunder loss.
That all has to change... tonight. Whatever hangover effect that has slowed this team after losses all season must stop and a new bloodlust for winning must take its place because, with only nine games remaining and the Conference standings spinning like a red-hot slot machine, this is a must-win for the Thunder. Losing streaks are longer an option.
Not a great movie, but what a speech.
It speaks directly to the true nature of a champion’s heart because winning is not about how hard you can hit, we know how hard the Thunder can hit. It’s about the Thunder taking that hit Tuesday, getting back up, and moving forward.
The Miami Heat are an Eastern Conference playoff contender on a three-game winning streak without Whiteside and Wade on the floor and they give up the 4th fewest points in the NBA, 102.9. A win tonight coupled with a Wizard loss would put the Heat just percentage points behind Washington and on the cusp of moving into the #6 spot and avoiding a first round match-up with the Celtics or Raptors. The Thunder won’t have the luxury to look past the game tonight because the Heat will definitely come to play.
With Whiteside out of the game, Billy Donovan will probably turn the Thunder’s current WS leader (8.9), Steven Adams, lose in the paint, but the Thunder should take care as the Heat have averaged 6.3 blocks in their three wins without their leading shot blocker.
The Thunder bench is also in need of a bounce-back game after contributing only 10 points in the Thunder’s loss at Boston. Prior to Tuesday’s game, the bench had produced 24, 37, and 44 points in OKC’s three previous wins and needs to get back on track along with the starters.
On paper and as the healthier team, the Thunder should win, but it’s up to the team’s leaders to show the supporting cast how a champion gets back up and carries on after a tough loss.
“Just win, baby.”
Who do you think will win tonight?
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