The OKC Thunder return home on a high note after collecting their 12th win of the season. It’s been a rough couple of weeks with the team battling elite clubs but only securing two wins in the past eight games.
After facing six playoff seeds and the ninth-seeded Grizzlies the Thunder schedule finally served up a lottery-bound squad and OKC responded. They scored 117 points and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander offered one last performance for coaches to ponder as they submit their All-Star reserve selections.
Tonight they’ll host the Miami Heat; a club on the rise who got out to a rough start this season but have their sights set on a continued ascent.
In contrast to the Thunder struggles the Heat has won six of their last nine games. Their last game featured a showdown versus the Lakers who defeated them to win the 2020 NBA title. Miami won the match keeping the Lakers under 100 points (96-94) and reminded the champs of how important Anthony Davis is to their chances of repeating.
With that, here are three keys to how the Thunder can even up the season series versus Miami.
OKC Thunder key number 1: Darius Bazley needs a bounce-back effort
He’s 20-years old so there will be up and down offensive games. Yet, the larger concern was defense, and as Dale noted he wasn’t invested, frequently not busting it back or playing with effort within the team scheme.
He’s had some spectacular games this season but one commonality is he tends to be far more productive in the first half of games. That might be a result of the physical toll of defense and often facing bigger and stronger players. Bazley was among the players who played when Mark Daigneault could only dress eight or nine players.
During that stretch, the forward delivered two of his best performances this season registering double-doubles in both. In particular, his 21 point, 16 rebound effort against the Lakers was arguably his finest performance this season.
Yet, it’s also feasible he’s worn out from playing five games in eight days with tonight being the sixth game in nine days.
He’ll be tested versus Miami as it’s likely Al Horford will be out again given he hasn’t played on the second game of back-to-back sets all season. That means Bazley and Isaiah Roby will probably draw the assignment to limit Bam Adebayo.