Thunder Will Face Stern Defensive Test Tonight
By Randy Renner
The Thunder have the NBA’s second best scoring offense averaging 108.8 points per game and tonight they will go up against a team allowing the third fewest points per game in the league. Miami is giving up just 95.5 and when these teams last played early in December the Heat held the high scoring Thunder to basically that winning 97-95.
Recent injury troubles have limited the Heat on offense but that defense is as stout as ever.
Miami point guard Goran Dragic is out with a strained right calf and shooting guard Dwyane Wade sat out Friday’s win at Denver with sore shoulders but is hoping to play tonight.
Without their two starting guards, the Heat turned to center Hassan Whiteside who went off for a massive triple-double against the Nuggets scoring 19 points while grabbing 17 rebounds and blocking 11 shots. Whiteside had been a bit gimpy lately with tendonitis in his right knee but appeared as healthy as he’s been in a while Friday night.
"I told coach (Erik Spoelstra) when I got on the bus my knee felt the best it's felt since I injured it," Whiteside said. "I told him, 'Don't limit my minutes. I'm back to that athletic Hassan you know.'"
The Thunder controlled Whiteside back in early December, holding him to 11 points, eight rebounds and two blocks. That night it was Wade who went off for 28 points on 11-for-21 shooting (all inside the arc) leading Miami to that 97-95 win.
The Thunder probably could have withstood Wade’s scoring if their own superstars taken better care of the ball. OKC had 16 turnovers that night, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were particularly generous giving the ball back to Miami 12 times between them.
Turnovers have been an off and on issue for OKC all season but the Thunder are coming off Friday’s blowout win against Minnesota which saw them give up a season-low six turnovers.
The defense has gotten better too, especially at home. Over their last three home games the Thunder are giving up only 92 points a game while scoring 111 for a whopping 19 point average margin of victory.
"Everybody's passing the ball, everybody's moving the ball around, making the extra pass and getting guys wide-open shots, wide-open dunks," said Westbrook, who's been limited to 37.1 percent shooting in his career against the Heat.
Durant's career numbers are much better against Miami with an average of 28.6 points on 48.5 percent shooting, but his teams have gone 7-9 in those contests.
Tonight’s game is the last on the Heat’s current six game road trip and the last on the Thunder’s current three game homestand. Tipoff is set for 6:10 and as usual you can see it on Fox Sports Oklahoma.
We’ll provide live updates from the arena on our Twitter feed page beginning with early warmups and coaches comments from Billy Donovan at 4:15 and Eric Spoelstra at 4:30. A full video wrapup, including comments from the lockerroom will be posted after the game.