March 16, 2011; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) reacts after being hit by Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant (35) during the second half at American Airlines Arena. Oklahoma won 96-85. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Heat (35-11) at Thunder (36-12), 8:00 P.M. EST tip

Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Thunder (2-game winning streak)
107.5 Offensive Efficiency (1st)
100.3 Defensive Efficiency (12th)
95.9 Pace (5th)
57.2 True Shooting % (1st)
51.4 Rebound Rate (5th)

Heat (4-game winning streak)
106.6 Offensive Efficiency (2nd)
96.6 Defensive Efficiency (3rd)
94.3 Pace (12th)
56.2 True Shooting % (2nd)
51.2 Rebound Rate (7th)

The Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat will play for the first time this season in what is most likely going to be a preview of this year’s NBA Finals.

The Thunder are currently the number one seed in the West with the Heat slotted as the two-seed in the East behind only Chicago. Both teams are also near the top of nearly every efficiency category.

They are the two best offensive teams in the NBA and when you have six of the best individual scorers it’s not hard to see why. Both teams boast a Big Three that is averaging right around 70 points per game.

Both teams are thus very similar in their makeup with Miami probably holding the edge in experience.

The Heat hold a significant edge over the Thunder in getting offense from spot-up shooting attempts, which is where the Heat get most of their offense. This is no surprise with LeBron James being one of the top passers in the NBA and the Heat roster surrounding him with a ton of spot-up guys.

The Thunder rely mostly on isolation and pick-and-roll opportunities. This basically means that the defense knows what’s coming but the Thunder are so talented it doesn’t matter. The Heat can match their talent tonight so we’ll see if the Thunder are able to get the same scoring looks as usual.

The Heat also go into the post a lot more than the Thunder and they do it with James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. James and Wade are the two most efficient post scorers in the NBA this season.

Kevin Durant and James will likely be guarding each other all game long. I think both give each other trouble on defense. James holds a big weight advantage over Durant and Durant is so long and underrated on defense that he can bother some of James’ looks as well.

The Thunder have a cast of bigs they can throw at Bosh but Bosh does most of his damage on pick-and-pops. Expect Serge Ibaka to not defend well enough on Bosh and for Nick Collison to be called upon for a lot of minutes.

Russell Westbrook won’t always be matched up on Wade but will from time to time, especially if the Thunder go small with Derek Fisher on the floor. It is amazing how much bigger Wade is than Westbrook and Wade will go to the post if this matchup occurs and likely abuse Westbrook.

Westbrook will be on offense however the toughest cover for Miami. Mario Chalmers and Wade are good defenders but Westbrook will be able to get looks all night. He’s been hitting his pull-up jumper lately and will need to be on with that shot tonight for the Thunder to win.

Both teams play a lot of up-tempo ball but in this matchup it may turn into more of a half court setting. Both teams will surely be up for the game so expect defensive intensity to appear playoff-like.

At home the Thunder should have a slight edge over the Heat but it is their toughest matchup. If they’re making the open jump shots they should get, then they can win. Otherwise, Miami may be walking out of Chesapeake Arena with the victory tonight.

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Tags: Chris Bosh Derek Fisher Dwyane Wade James Harden Kevin Durant LeBron James Nick Collison Russell Westbrook Serge Ibaka Thunder Vs Heat

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