You can win as many games as you want but if you lose against this team, it means nothing.
That seems to be the feeling with the Oklahoma City Thunder this year and their matchup with the Miami Heat. It’s great having the second best record in the NBA but if they can’t beat the Heat then what’s the difference.
The Thunder get their second chance this season to exact revenge against the Heat who took them down in five games in the NBA Finals a season ago.
The Thunder and Heat first met this season on Christmas Day in South Beach. Miami took that contest 103-97 behind 29 points, nine assists and eight rebounds by LeBron James.
Kevin Durant had 33 points and seven rebounds in that game and Russell Westbrook had 21 points but just three assists and shot 5-for-19 from the field.
The Thunder got 15 points each from Serge Ibaka and Kevin Martin but little else as the Heat led for most of the game.
It was the same script that haunted the Thunder in the Finals last year. They stopped having great ball movement, turned the ball over and reverted back to isolation basketball.
That’s not how you beat the Heat and that’s not how the Thunder have played for much of the year.
The feeling is still that the Thunder have control of their destiny when playing the Heat. LeBron and Dwyane Wade can get theirs and the Thunder are still capable of beating them. They just can’t beat themselves.
The Heat aren’t starting the same small ball lineups that killed OKC in the Finals last year but they will still more than likely go to that look quite a bit.
The Thunder will try to survive will Kendrick Perkins is on the floor although he has been playing better lately. He’s actually scoring a little bit and should be able to at least get some offensive rebounds against the smaller Heat frontline.
Falling behind early has been a bad trend for the Thunder vs. Miami too. This allows Miami to play totally in their comfort zone and makes the Thunder panic to come back.
Westbrook needs to be calm and cool and there’s a better chance he’s that way playing in front of his home crowd. The role players need to make shots for OKC too and again that happens more often in the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
All eyes will be on LeBron and Durant but their head-to-head play may not decide the outcome. Both have been able to put up big numbers in these games with neither really pulling away from the either.
The edge LeBron still carries over Durant is the one that makes the Heat so tough for the Thunder. He makes his teammates better just a little more than Durant does. Durant is making strides to become this way but still isn’t on the level of the King.
An MVP award may very well be on the line tonight. The decision to make a trade at the deadline may also be determined depending on tonight.
This won’t be just a regular season game. It’s an NBA Finals rematch and possibly an NBA Finals preview as well.