Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

OKC Thunder (21-5) vs. Miami Heat (18-6) Preview

The biggest game of the NBA regular season is finally here and on the biggest stage no less.

An NBA Finals rematch between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat will tip-off in South Beach at 5:30 p.m. EST today.

The Finals rematch is becoming a tradition on Christmas Day. Last year, the Heat took down the Dallas Mavericks 105-94 on Christmas Day.

This year, the game expects to be a closer one. The Thunder have become stronger this season despite the loss of James Harden. They appear more mature and experienced, just the kind of thing you would expect from a team fresh of an NBA Finals loss.

OKC has jumped out to the best record in the league so far this season but all of that will mean nothing if they don’t appear equals to the Heat today.

The Thunder have the most efficient offense in the league this season and the Heat have taken a step back on the defensive end, ranking just 12th overall.

Miami’s offense is 3rd in the NBA though behind only the Thunder and Knicks. It was the offense and not the defense that really stumped the Thunder in that Finals series.

Miami was playing a small lineup with LeBron James and Shane Battier at the forward positions and the Thunder frontline with Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins was lost allowing open 3-pointer after open 3-pointer en route to a 4-1 series loss.

The Heat began this season with the same small lineup but with their defense suffering during the regular season grind, has since gone back to a more traditional look.

Both teams expect to get their third scoring wheels back today as Chris Bosh and Kevin Martin each missed their team’s last game.

There will be a lot of important matchups in the game but none bigger than Kevin Durant vs. LeBron James.

LeBron had the year of his life last season but Durant is closing the gap this year. Durant is one of the frontrunners for the MVP this season and posting a ridiculous 65.4 true shooting percentage.

LeBron is his usual hyper-efficient self leading the league in PER as he assumes more of a power forward role with the team.

Head-to-head, it is a tossup between the two. The main difference and advantage for LeBron recently has been his ability to lift his teammates up while Durant is still learning that process.

On this stage, games tend to be decided by performances by their best players. And if the game is close, expect an epic duel from Durant and LeBron down the stretch.

It can’t get any better than this NBA fans. The season will officially be underway today at 5:30 p.m. EST.

Tags: Miami Heat NBA Christamas Day Oklahoma City Thunder

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