Not Just Another Game
These days coaches and players tend not to place more emphasis on one game over another, at least they don't publically.
And afterall every game does count the same in the win-loss column. You just get credit for one win even if you beat a great team and likewise you just have to live with one loss even if you lose to the worst team in the league.
Tonight the national spotlight shines on Miami and the marquis matchup between the Thunder and the Heat and Kevin Durant and LeBron James.
Perception is on the line tonight. And no I'm not talking about the fans or media, I'm talking about the players.
Win or lose, the Thunder will still be in first place in the Western Conference standings and win or lose the Heat will still be in second place over in the Eastern Conference.
But the Thunder haven't beaten the Heat since Game One of The Finals in 2012. That's six straight losses. Four straight in The Finals and then both games last season.
Taking things a bit further, all the way to LeBron's days in Cleveland, Kevin Durant's Thunder teams have lost to LeBron's Cavs-Heat teams 13 times in 16 tries.
That might get a player to wondering and maybe worrying a little about the matchups.
That's the main reason tonight's game is so important. If OKC loses again, to make it seven straight L's to the Heat, some players may get it in their head that for whatever reason they just can't beat Miami and the confidence everyone needs going into a big time game starts to erode.
The opposite can be said for the Heat, with each win their confidence grows and when another Finals matchup could be in both team's futures that could be one of those elusive intangibles that could mean the difference between winning and losing.
So tonight's Thunder-Heat game isn't just another game in January, tonight's result could have ramifications that will be felt all the way to June.