With six games remaining in the first half the OKC Thunder have exceeded expectations winning on the road, beating elite clubs, and staying in games oddsmakers noted they should lose by double digits.
Week eight and nine were particularly tough for the Thunder as the squad was mired by injury and played six of eight games on the road. This year more than ever players will appreciate the All-Star break for an opportunity to get some rest.
Hopefully, one Thunder player (Shai Gilgeous-Alexander) will get a bit less rest. SGA will learn this evening if he was selected by the coaches as a reserve for the yearly marquee event.
Miami was finishing a seven-game road trip featuring the longest road trip (distance) in franchise history. It was clear early the Heat were tired as they struggled to get their offense rolling.
By the half, the Thunder had built a nine-point lead and held a 24-16 advantage on points in the paint. By game end, that PIP benefit had shifted to the Heat (40-36).
While Miami won the third quarter they held a slim two-point edge (79-77) entering the final frame meaning this was anyone’s game.
But a combination of aggressive Heat defense and fatigue catching up to the Thunder resulted in a 15 -0 run putting the game out of reach. Darius Bazley’s layup at 6:22 of the fourth ended the scoring drought. For those counting — OKC was held scoreless (0 for 9) for five minutes and 38 seconds.
Clearly, fatigue played a role, but the Heat was tired too, and ultimately, the match was lost based on a more disciplined club who have more experience (and talent) in closing out gritty games.
With that let’s dive into the grades from the match