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Thunder at Heat Game Preview: Tonight’s Key Matchup, and the Three Keys to The Game.

Oklahoma City Thunder (2-3) at Miami Heat (2-3)

Tip Off: 6:30pm CST

How To Watch: FSOK


Oklahoma City is entering this game on high-spirits, snapping their 3-game losing streak on Saturday, defeating the Orlando Magic 108-99. For the Heat, they are coming fresh off a loss, losing 83-93 against the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday.

Game Notes:

The Thunder have three players listed as out for tonight:

Ty Jerome (ankle)

Trevor Ariza (personal)

Aleksej Pokusevski (concussion)

Pokusevski endured a a concussion in the Thunder’s Sunday practice, colliding with another player during a drill, you can read more on that story here.

The Heat are entering this game without one player:

PG Gabe Vincent

SG Avery Bradley was out multiple games with a stomach illness prior to tonight, and was given the clear to become available just hours before tonight’s game.

Projected Starting Lineups:


PG Shai Gilgeous-Alexander———-Tyler Herro

SG George Hill———————–——-Duncan Robinson

SF Lu Dort————————-———–Jimmy Butler

PF Darius Bazley——————–——-Andre Iguodala

C Al Horford————————–——-Bam Adebayo

For the Heat, they have ran a different starting lineups in almost every game of this season up to this point. With Avery Bradley back into the rotation, he may receive the starting nod as he did start a game for them this year, but this is the Heat’s latest starting group against the Mavericks. It is most definitely subject to change on their side.

Tonight’s Key Matchup:

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander vs. the Heat Defense

This one is very vague, but fills the bill of what needs to be looked out for. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander struggled to get any sort of shot off when defenses opted to double him on screens, particularly in Tuesday’s Magic game.

Miami’s Bam Adebayo has a big upper hand on Al Horford in terms of speed and athleticism. If Horford is attempting to set high screens on SGA, do not be surprised if Adebayo hedges and pressures SGA off these screens to get him off his routine.

If SGA is heavily defended by multiple players in this game, it will be a true test to see he can combat this through creating for himself, or others.

Keys to the Game:

Limiting Jimmy

Jimmy Butler has only averaged 8.3 points in his three games with the Heat this season. Despite that, the team is still sitting at a modest 2-3 record. If Jimmy Butler can find his shot in this game and rekindle the scoring outbursts he provided in the playoffs, this may be a rough game.

Lu Dort will almost indefinitely be Butler’s matchup, so luckily Butler won’t be given any freebies when it comes to shots. Butler will need to go hard at Dort and loosen himself on screens because a Dort-Butler matchup is a nightmare for Jimmy.

Prevent Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson From Three

The Duncan Robinson-Tyler Herro duo that is brewing in South Beach is intimidating for every NBA team. Duncan Robinson is shooting an astute 40% on seven attempts this year while Herro is only shooting 33% on five attempts. Despite their numbers being a bit down % wise from last year, the sample size is not enough and the eye-test will tell you, when they are hot, you cannot stop them.

Attacking Duncan Robinson

This plan of attack is centered around a two-step plan. Firstly, Al Horford needs to be stretching his defender out the three-point line as the lane will need to be clear of all bodies for this plan to run smoothly. Horford likely will have open looks to start the game, if he can get a couple quick buckets from deep and keep Heat center Bam Adebayo honest, the lane will be cleared. The second step revolves around Darius Bazley setting high ball screens on George Hill (who Robinson will likely be defending,) eventually what will happen is one of three things: 1- Hill will have an open jumpshot if no help is given, 2- Bazley will get Robinson off the switch, where he will penetrate, 3- too much help will be provided from the screen defender, leaving Bazely for an open cut, 4- Bazely will get the ball on the roll and kick out to for an open three (barring a Heat defender needs to rotate on him.)

Ideally, you are shooting for Robinson to be switched onto Bazley due to the clear mismatch. Robinson is by no means a terrible defender, but he does have a tendency to get into foul trouble. In his last season with the Heat, he averaged 2.6 steals on 30 minutes a game. The major difference between last year and this game is Robinson was up on smaller guards, Bazley is a 6-foot-8 point forward who will attack the basket at will and get you into foul trouble with ease.

If Bazely can go at Robinson for a good amount of runs in this game, there is a high probability that he will have to sit early due to fouls.

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