The win clinches a first-round playoff matchup with the Houston Rockets.
Man, I couldn’t have written it better myself.
So, here are my takeaways from the game against the Heat:
- The most significant piece of news coming out of this game is the Lu Dort injury. Dort injured his knee, chasing Jae Crowder. Initially, it looked like a knee to a knee injury, but replays show that it was a non-contact injury that caused Dort to leave the game. The Thunder ruled it a right knee injury, not a wound. Losing Dort for an extended period would be a big blow to the Thunder’s playoff chances. Dort has provided an energetic style of play on both sides of the floor while averaging 10.3 points. Dort will get an MRI, according to head coach Billy Donovan.
- In Lu’s absence, Terrance Ferguson started the second half and finished three points and five assists. Ferguson has been buried in the rotation, but this Dort injury might give him another chance to prove to the team that he can be a capable NBA player after dealing with confidence issues and off-court issues. If Ferguson can come in and play adequate defense while shooting the ball at a decent clip, Lu’s loss will not be felt as severely.
- With Dort out, the starting three spot is up for grabs with many potential candidates on the team playing tonight. As noted earlier, Ferguson is one of them. Others include guys like Darius Bazley, Hamidou Diallo, Abdel Nader, and Andre Roberson.
- Diallo has done an excellent job in his role off the bench and provides speed and athleticism that is a weapon in the Thunder’s transition game. Still, his shot selection is sometimes questionable and becomes a liability in the perimeter.
- Bazley has been performing great in his bubble minutes and has scored in double digits in five of the seven games. Darius continued to impress in tonight’s game as he scored 21 points in various ways that included going 5-8 from three. Two plays that stuck out to me tonight in the first half from Darius was a stepback three he made flawlessly after sizing up his defender with a series of dribbling moves and a bounce pass he made with accuracy to Hami. Darius played a vital role in the Thunder’s comeback tonight and ran point for the majority of the final quarter. I like Bazley, and how he has played in the bubble, it looks like he has taken that next step in his progression and could play meaningful playoff minutes.
- Nader is a good shooter and can create his offense, but he is right in his current role. Nader was excellent tonight off the bench with 13 points on 5-9 shooting. Abdel has had a perfect season off the bench.
- Roberson is the biggest wildcard for me. Andre’s 3-point shot has looked respectable since his return, and his defense has shown flashes of his old self. It will all come down to whether or not Andre can handle playing heavy minutes in the playoffs where the intensity is high. Since his return, Oklahoma City has slowly been working Andre back, averaging less than 10 minutes a game. But if Lu is to miss time, will the Thunder trust Andre’s health and stamina enough to play big minutes?
- Another player who could take Dort’s spot in the starting lineup returned to the bubble tonight after only playing the Utah game, and that person is Dennis Schroder. Schroder is part of the Three Guard lineup that has dominated the opposition whenever they are on the court. But I’m not sure how productive that lineup can be if they need to play 30+ minutes a night in a playoff series. Schroder will raise the offensive ceiling for the starting lineup, but the bench will suffer without Dennis. Perhaps staggering the minutes of the three guards could help soften that blow. Overall, the Thunder has missed Dennis’s shot creation ability since his departure, and his return will be a welcomed site back.
- The Thunder’s defense struggled big-time against Miami’s starters. The Heat killed OKC from the perimeter, getting open looks whenever they pleased. The Thunder got into foul trouble, which resulted in many trips to the line for Miami. It seems like the Heat is a bad matchup for the Thunder, and one has to wonder how they will do against a 3-point happy team like the Rockets in the playoffs.
- Both of the Thunder’s bigs returned this game. Steven Adams played just 20 minutes and finished with eight points and eight rebounds. Nerlens Noel played 18 minutes and grabbed seven rebounds but committed four turnovers and three fouls.
- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had his best half in the bubble this game as he scored all 18 of his points in the first two quarters on 6-9 shooting. Shai was able to attack the basket with his drives and finished around the rim. Shai played most of his minutes in the first half.
- Thunder come back from a 22-point deficit and scored 34 points to Miami’s 15 in the fourth to seal the win. Mike Muscala hit the go-ahead three off a Bazley pass, and Tyler Herro, who scored a career-high 30 points, missed a three at the end of the game.
- The Thunder also lost their first-round pick with this win, and the pick officially belongs to the 76ers.
- This win guarantees a Thunder-Rockets first-round match up with the possibility of Russell Westbrook missing games due to a right quad strain.