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Game Preview: Miami Heat at Oklahoma City Thunder

Hello All, On Saturday night the Heat will be in Oklahoma City to wrap up its road trip against the Thunder (or as Bill Simmons readers might refer to them: The Zombie Sonics). Also, this is the rare matchup of teams with singular titles, so that is always nice. You know, for consistency’s sake. The Heat is on a two-game winning streak and sits at 20-18. Getting a win to wrap up the trip would provide momentum coming back home for the stretch leading up to the All Star break. The Thunder, meanwhile, is on a two game losing streak and sits at 21-18. They are a young team who has been just about as good at home as on the road, with an 11-9 record. PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS Heat Thunder PG Alston R. Westbrook SG Wade T. Sefolosha SF Richardson K. Durant PF Beasley J. Green C O’Neal N. Krstic The Thunder is a much more athletic team. In the last matchup, the Heat couldn’t keep Thefolosha and Durant off the boards and lost the game by 13. Durant is a matchup nightmare for the Heat because he is tall for a small forward at 6’9", and that doesn’t include his wingspan, which is more like a 7 footer’s. Honestly, Beasley might be the best matchup for him, but that leaves the Heat with Quentin Richardson or Udonis Haslem on Jeff Green, neither of which is a good matchup for the Heat, as Green can play away from the hoop just as easily as he plays inside. Thefolosha could be the key in the matchup, as he can guard anyone from a 2 to a 4. His versatility allows the Thunder to pick the matchups they want on defense. Sixth Man James Harden will come off the bench and play physical defense on Wade as well. Wade will still get his numbers, but someone will have to step up and have a big night, most likely Jermaine O’Neal, going up against the combination of Nenad Krstic, Nick Collison and Serge Ibaka. STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN (via; 1/16/10) Effective Field Goal % The Heat is 19th in the league at 49.1%; the Thunder is 22nd at 48.7%. EDGE: Even Turnover % The Heat is 2nd in the league at 12.7%; the Thunder is 25th at 15.2%. EDGE: Heat (Big) Offensive Rebound % The Heat is 18th in the league at 25.7%; the Thunder is 7th at 28.1%. EDGE: Thunder Free Throw Rate The Heat is 14th at 31%; the Thunder is 8th at 32.6%. EDGE: Thunder KEY TO THE GAME Simply put the Heat take better care of the ball and play better defense. The question is whether they can limit the second chances for the Thunder. If the Heat can keep them off the boards, their chance of winning goes way up. If they let Sefolosha and Durant take over the glass again, then it will be a repeat of November. I think the Heat are starting to get on a roll and O’Neal is playing better. I think they will keep things rollin’ in a tight one; Wade is still better than anyone on the Thunder in the clutch (hell, they can’t even figure out who their go-to guy is in crunch time lately). Always guard the inbound passer.