The last time the Miami Heat played a home game was February 3rd, a 102-96 win against the Detroit Pistons. Since that time, they have played five road games, with their lone loss on the trip coming at the hands of the Utah Jazz.
The All-Star break also happened in the middle of this trip, which extended their time away from home by an additional few days.
The Oklahoma City Thunder won the lone matchup between these two teams so far this season by a score of 112-95 on January 29th at the Heat's house. Kevin Durant was his usual ridiculous self in that game, going for 33 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists, but the real story was the contribution the Thunder got from their other guys. Derek Fisher and Jeremy Lamb combined to go for 33 points on 12-17 shooting, and they made 9 of their 11 three-point attempts. As a team, the Thunder shot an astonishing 59% on 27 attempts from deep. Tough to lose when you put up numbers like that.
Meanwhile, the Heat got virtually nothing from their usual bench scorers - Ray Allen and Norris Cole combined for 5 points on 1-6 shooting. Obviously, the Heat are going to need more than that if they want to beat the Thunder this season.
Oh, and did I mention that the Thunder will be getting Russell Westbrook back for this one? Westbrook hasn't played since Christmas Day, when he went for a triple double against the Knicks. For the season, he's averaging 21 points, 7 assists and 6 rebounds a night, although he is also averaging 4 turnovers which is a new career high.
It remains to be seen how Westbrook is going to fit in with what the Thunder have going on now. Kevin Durant has been the hottest player on the planet in Westbrook's absence, and we don't know just how his return is going to impact KD's play. I believe it will be a positive, if anything, but it's worth monitoring.
The biggest storyline from the last time these two teams played was Scott Brooks' decision to finally sit Kendrick Perkins. Perk played just 5 minutes (the first 5), and was a -13. The Thunder won the game by 17. You do the math. The Heat have been taking advantage of Perkins for the last few seasons, and the Thunder matchup way better against Miami with him out of the lineup. It would make sense that Brooks will utilize that same strategy this time around, so it will be interesting to see what move the Heat make to counter it. Greg Oden didn't play in the January 29th meeting between these two teams, so we may see Spo go to him to try and force Brooks to put Perkins back in the game.
The game will tip off at 8:00 PM Eastern and can be seen on TNT.
Thursday, Feb 20, 2014, 8:00 PM EST
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