By Randy Renner
Despite the longest of odds the Oklahoma City Thunder somehow keep finding ways not only to compete but to win games coming down the stretch. They did it again Sunday afternoon by blistering the Heat 93-75.
Just a minute and a half into Sunday's game against Miami, Thunder defensive whiz Andre Roberson twisted his left ankle and did not return, joining Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison on the injured list.
Roberson was being counted upon to slow down Miami's Dwyane Wade who'd been averaging almost 30 points over the last 10 games or so.
The Thunder defense, which had not been very good lately, figured to be even wprse without Roberson but instead the healthy guys who were left played some of the best defense we've seen the Thunder play this season. Miami's 75 points were the fewest the team has scored this season and the Heat were held to just 39.5 percent shooting.
Russell Westbrook did not have a very good shooting game (5-for-16) but he dominated play just the same with 12 points, a career-high tying 17 assists and 10 rebounds. Enes Kanter returned from a one game absence with a sprained ankle to score 27 points (two shy of tying his career-high) on 12-for-20 shooting. Kanter also grabbed 12 rebounds.
"Enes had a great game and everybody rebounded and we moved the ball well," said head coach Scott Brooks. "We've had some tough luck this year (with injuries) but we just focus on playing well."
Steven Adams continued his recent hot streak with his third straight double-double and fourth in his last five games finishing with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Rookie Mitch McGary, getting extended playing time now with Collison out, scored 14 points and grabbed eight rebounds.
But the defense won this game, never letting Miami get out and run and take control of the game. The Heat had 12 fast break points and had been avaging more than 20 their ,ast several games, the Thunder scored 21 points in transition.
Neither Wade nor Hassan Whiteside, who'd been terrorizing the NBA recently, did much. Wade finished with 12 points on 6-for-15 shooting and Whiteside had 13 points and six rebounds before fouling out.
Since learning Durant may be lost for season the Thunder have now knocked off two of the hottest teams in the league Atlanta on Friday and Miami on Sunday.
They got an added boost on Sunday when the New Orleans Pelicans lost to the Clippers giving the Thunder a three game lead for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
The Thunder wrap up their home stand Tuesday against the 17-50 Los Angeles Lakers Tuesday night then head out on the road for a critical trip that will take them to San Antonio on Wednesday, Utah on Saturday and Phoenix on Sunday.
What looked like a near impossible mission to just make the playoffs few days ago now once again looks more and more like a sure thing.
One thing we've learned about this team as this snakebit season has worn on is never, ever count them out.