Thunder and Heat — what do you first think off of those three words? Many may equate these two franchises to the 2012 Finals, LeBron vs. Durant, what was to be, and what already was. Those days are numbered. This year’s rhetoric on these two teams has all to do about the future, and nothing of the past, as Oklahoma City owns the right to swap Miami’s first-round selection for the upcoming draft. Media spewed their two cents on if the Thunder should intentionally win or lose on Monday— but it amounted to absolutely nothing. Both sides put their efforts into full-throttle in a 48-minute deathmatch, but ultimately it was the Miami Heat who came out on top, flaming the Oklahoma City Thunder 108-94 behind a strong second-half. For the Thunder, this loss moved them back to 12-19 on the season, while the Heat now find themselves at 14-17, cracking into the tenth seed off the win.
The Thunder started out strong, getting their first five field goals to go en route to a 12-6 run. Miami were fuming from three, making up for their 4-of-10 start with all their makes coming from downtown to tie. Miami continued to pelt the Thunder, building their stretch to 15-2 before Oklahoma City found nourishment in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who scored 10 in the period.
Remarkably, the Thunder found themselves down 23-21 through one despite outperforming the Heat 60% to 43% from the field — the reason why — triples and turnovers. Oklahoma City let up 6 turnovers to result in 11 points off turnovers, whilst the Heat’s 5 made threes put them over the edge.
Ball movement because the Thunder’s backbone in quarter number two. Oklahoma City’s early efforts to penetrate were fruitful, with backdoor cuts galore and a crazy Maledon spin move inside highlighting an 11-5 booster. After their mini-run, the team’s emphasis on playing hot-potato with the basketball still remained evident, sneaking in 7 of their 10 made shots off assists, while forcing physically for 12 free throw attempts. Miami played with little adjustments from period one to two, operating under heavy-isolations and perimeter play — eventually costing them the lead, being down 54-45 at half.
Miami struggled to lift the blockade off the basket, shooting a paltry 14-of-40 (35%) from the floor being even more depleted from three with 6-of-21 shooting (29%) through the first half. Oklahoma City did a splendid job forcing the Heat off the inside, while outrebounding Miami 23-18. Offensively, the Thunder did just as well, shooting 19-of-35 for 54%. Shai starred out the gates, plummeting through double-teams the entire first half, spurring off 18 points on 6-of-7 shooting while burying 5-of-6 free throws.
Neither side managed to plant any footing in the first segment of the half; however two quick Isaiah Roby threes put pressure on Bam Adebayo to stay honest on defense. Adebayo’s absence under the basket led to 6 points in the paint and 5 free throws for the quarter, postered by a Lu Dort double-clutch layup. Miami waited to strike until the ladder part of the period, going on a 17-5 run to reclaim the lead 79-77 to close things.
Miami sparked out the gate for five straight points to take their largest lead of the game — until controversy arose. Heat forward Andre Iguodala struck Hamidou Diallo with an elbow in efforts to sway the basketball to his right side, but was rewarded with his clumsiness with a Diallo foul. Mark Daigneualt had none of it, looking to build momentum off an overturned challenge, but the ruling was upheld. The Heat picked up right where they left, adding eleven more points answered to take a 17 point lead. Oklahoma City wiped away their cold-spell six minutes into the quarter, but by that point it was too late.
Miami netted six men in double-figures on Monday, while burying in 15 threes on the night to pair along with 21 made free throws. Guards Duncan Robinson and Kenrick Nunn filled in respectably for Dragic and Herro — and even then some. Robinson surfaced a team-high 22 points off 8-of-15 shooting while Nunn racked up 20 points on 7-of-18 from the field. Bam Adebayo took advantage of Horford being out of the rotation, notching a double-double with 19 points and 13 rebounds.
Oklahoma City eclipsed their 20 assist benchmark by the skin of their teeth, continuing that streak to 11 — but the newfound winning streak is over. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander affirmed as to why many regard him as an All-Star showing off a sweltering 27 points, adding on 2 rebounds, and 5 assists. The 22-year-old might as well been triple-teamed walking over to the Gatorade cooler on Monday, dealing with traps, doubles, and even triple-teams throughout his 35 minutes. Nothing fazed Shai as he went on to shoot the team’s best field goal percentage on 10-of-15 shooting (66%) weaving in between defenders and at times having to contort his body to find a shot. When all options ran dry for the guard — hope was never lost, snagging six attempts at the line from thin air. The young-star’s leadership was on full display in this game, really being the only player that gave them a lasting shot. Darius Bazley looked to be in a funk offensively in the sunrise periods, shooting a mundane 2-of-6 in the first three quarters — forking away four turnovers, and refusing to take Heat defenders off the dribble, but late efforts propped the forward on a solid scorecard. The 20-year-old managed to spruce up his statline posting 8 points in the fourth, bringing his grand total to 13 points (5-of-9 FG) and 5 rebounds on the game. Isaiah Roby made Adebayo pay with 12 points, converting on 4-of-5 shots, while slipping into 5 boards. Roby looked like a guard using stepbacks to create his two made threes, tapping into an area the 23-year-old has hardly flashed to the public. Lu Dort‘s defensive prowess kept him in the game for 32 minutes but he had one of his toughest performances of the year ending with 11 points and 7 rebounds off a dreary 3-of-15 night (1-of-8 3pt.) Mike Muscala was the final man in the double-digit club hitting 3 of his 7 deep-balls to garner 11 points.
The Oklahoma City Thunder (12-19) will look towards Wednesday to invigorate their spirits, as they are set to take on the San Antonio Spurs (16-11.) This game brings some unique storylines, and potential uncertainty due to San Antonio having to postpone their last 3 games to health and safety protocol, still having a sea of players inactive for Wednesday’s game.