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Thunder vs Heat preview and gamethread: OKC must straighten things out vs Miami, sans Westbrook

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The Thunder were caught unprepared vs the Warriors, and now must face the Heat without their all-star point guard.

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Miami Heat Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Game: Oklahoma City Thunder vs Miami Heat

Time: 7PM CST

Location: Chesapeake Arena, OKC

Broadcast: FSOK

Counterpart: Hot Hot Hoops

***

The Thunder are on the heels of a dispiriting loss to the West-leading Warriors, but now is no time for a letdown. They welcome the Miami Heat to the ‘Peake tonight, and again there are playoff implications for both.

The Heat are in a 3-way fight in the East, jockeying for position with the Nets and Magic fo the 7th and 8th spots in the playoffs, with only 2.5 games separating the three. In the West, the Thunder are in a post All-Star weekend skid, having recorded only 5 wins in 13 attempts, and have fallen from 3rd place in the standings (and it is increasingly unlikely they have even an outside shot of regaining it), and instead are only 1.5 games up on the 8th place Clippers. Life comes at you pretty fast sometimes.

Hopefully before the Thunder concern themselves with the fact that they’ll be facing one of the top 5 teams in the NBA this season twice this week, OKC has to deal with the motivated Heat, who along with vying for a playoff spot, are likely trying to give soon-to-retire Dwyane Wade one final swan song in the post-season.

And of course they will be doing it without the services of their All-Star and former league MVP, Russell Westbrook.

My initial take is...this might be a good thing. Both for him and for the team.

Right now, they’re incredibly unfocused on the task at hand, which is simply to get back to the level of play they were at in Jan/Feb. Since then, they’ve struggled with weak teams and the elite teams and have completely fallen from the playoff seeding many thought was a practical lock only a month ago.

To win tonight, they will be forced to do something they didn’t do Saturday — have an actual game plan, and execute it. Billy Donovan will have to coach. Players will need to show patience. They will have to avoid fouling. And Westbrook will have to be a good teammate. Because what he did against the Warriors, in every aspect, was damaging to OKC’s prospects both this year and beyond.

It’s a big game tonight, even if most don’t realize it. But Miami does. I hope OKC does as well.

Poll

Who do you think will win tonight?

This poll is closed

  • 37%
    Thunder
    (22 votes)
  • 62%
    Heat
    (36 votes)
58 votes total Vote Now