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Thunder burned by Heat 103-90 in back-to-back closer

With the Miami Heat missing the services of Bam Adebayo (knee) and Jimmy Butler (ankle) the Oklahoma City Thunder dropped their back-to-back closer against the Heat, flaming out 103-90. The Thunder skid to a two-game losing streak following the loss, now falling to a 5-8 record. In regards to the Heat, they pivot in the top half of the East at 9-5.

Oklahoma City found safeguard in Lu Dort to begin Monday’s contest as the guard continued his success from Sunday for the group’s first eight points off of two triples and a driving jam. Miami went mano e mano with the Dortress early, hitting four-consecutive threes to open play, forcing Mark Daigneault to exhaust a timeout down 12-8. After Kyle Lowry rattled in a jumper post-timeout, Josh Giddey unleashed in response. The 19-year-old spurred on a five-point stretch for the Thunder sneaking inside for a floater on one play before burrowing inside, ripping the ball out of a defender’s grasp, and lodging a picture-perfect pass to Jeremiah Robinson-Earl in the right corner for a trifecta. A minute later, Oklahoma City’s surge had blossomed to nine straight to hand the Thunder a three-point lead. Miami took a hyper-aggressive approach to the lack of buckets while trailing behind as three turnovers had been made in a three-minute stretch, opening the floodgates for even more OKC points — that it did. The Thunder banded together to hoist four more points in the stint for a 12-0 run, utilizing a Shai Gilgeous-Alexander free throw and an Aaron Wiggins three from the right corner, swaying the group up to seven. Both sides took a halt in action until the two-minute mark as the tandem of Caleb Martin, Tyler Herro, and Max Strus posted three points apiece for a 9-3 closing run to cut Oklahoma City’s lead to 24-23 heading into the second frame.

The Heat captured a one-point advantage a minute into the second with a Max Strus 25-footer, but then, the lead quickly devolved into a round of hot potato. In the first six minutes of the second quarter, three lead changes and two ties held both sides attached at the hip as Miami rose a 31-30 lead in a back-and-forth of benches, but the starters had their names called following the close play. The starters projected a near carbon copy of their respective benches as the Heat stung a six-point lead at the four-minute mark before Josh Giddey found Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on catch-and-shoot threes to tie the game with three minutes. The constant pattern of ties came full circle to close the half as following a duo of buckets from Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Kyle Lowry drained a last-second jumper to tie the game at 43-all going into halftime.

In all, the second quarter produced seven lead changes and six ties. 

The Thunder had to carve out their work almost solely at the three-point line in the first half as the group shot a flaky 7-of-21 (33.3%) on two-point shots while rising up from distance to can 9-of-24 (37.5%) tries behind the tape. Lu Dort and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl held the Thunder by their bootstraps as the duo placed 13 and 10 points, respectively in the 24-minute sample. 

The Heat reenacted the Thunder’s first-half gig from the game’s onset, but they had an additional punch on their side. The fire was extinguished for Miami on twos early as the group posted a feeble 4-of-21 (19.0%) clip inside, but as they broadened their horizons, they flared up en route to a 9-of-19 (47.4%) outing on triples. Their secret weapon, however, revolved around the free-throw line as the Heat nailed 8-of-10 attempts to the Thunder’s 2-of-4 piece. Tyler Herro and Kyle Lowry did much of the heavy lifting in the half as they ended with 12 and 9 points, respectively.

The torch of leads continued to trade hands through the first two minutes of the third frame, but as the Heat’s band of sharpshooters got a wave — the Thunder began to crash. Fueled by three Tyler Herro free throws, Duncan Robinson drained two triples off of the catch to clock a 9-0 Miami stint in a span of 45 seconds. The Thunder’s poignance on the drive-and-dish reappeared following the stumble as Darius Bazley and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl drilled a catch-and-shoot three apiece to will the margin down to five by the eight-minute mark. The Heat’s continuous success from the perimeter permeated into the frontcourt, as with a Duncan Robinson layup and a Dewayne Dedmon triple, Miami blazed to their first double-digit lead of the game up 64-54. The Heat extended their run to 22-8 at their highest moment, tallying a 14-point, 70-56 advantage; however, the Thunder’s “bench mob” made a lasting impact to sound off the frame. Led by a lineup of SGA, Kenrich Williams, Aaron Wiggins, Aleksej Pokusevski, and Isaiah Roby, the Thunder frazzled the Heat on offense late, sounding off an 11-4 closing stint to will the game to seven at 74-67 with a period to go. In the chaos, Aleksej Pokusevski emerged as the Thunder’s top option as the Serb soared in for two right-handed jams while converting on a 27-foot triple to close the frame. 

The Thunder’s 7-footer in Aleksej Pokusevski built upon his third-quarter success in the fourth, adding a 16-foot pullup to open the period, but the second unit faced issues when pressed up against Miami’s starters, in particular, Tyler Herro. Herro burst onto the fourth-quarter scene with two turnaround fadeaways before a 27-foot pull-up outstretched seven-straight for the Kentucky alum and a double-digit lead for the Heat. Herro’s play at the perimeter lit a fire among surrounding backcourt figures as the pairing of Max Strus and Gabe Vincent joined forces to scrap seven points straight in what became an 18-point, 91-73 lead for Miami. The Thunder put an end to Miami’s 17-6 run off of a technical foul free throw, utilizing the extra possession for an Aleksej Poksevski layup around the cup. The Thunder struck some fear into the Heat in the middle portion of the frame as a counterattack 12-4 run paved the way for a 10-point tossup with four minutes to go. The Thunder successfully stalled the Heat out until the two-minute mark on scoring, but their feeble two points in the span shut the door on the evening. Mark Daigneault inserted a full slate of rookies to end the contest, finding a happy ending with a Jeremiah Robinson-Earl three. But, even with JRE’s finishing touch, the group came far from victory — plummeting the Thunder 103-90.   

Oklahoma City clipped the 40-percent mark in Monday’s contest shooting 41.0 percent on a 34-of-83 clip while broadening their range from deep range to the tune of a 15-of-41 (36.6%) outing. The Thunder didn’t shy away from the passing game netting 26 assists with a counteracting 20 team turnovers. 

Miami fired up in the absence of Adebayo and Butler shooting a respectable 45.1 percent (37-of-82 FG) while finding an elite groove from distance, shooting at a 45-percent clip in an 18-of-40 patch. Sharpshooters in Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson led the Heat’s efforts firing off 26 and 21 points, respectively, across a combined 17-of-33 (10-of-22 3PT) shot chart. Kyle Lowry clocked half of the Heat’s assists, recording an 11-point, 11-assist double-double in 33 minutes.

Lu Dort reached his first career fourth-game stretch of placing 20-plus points, harvesting the accolade off of 20 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists. Dort hit a groove from all three levels compiling an 8-of-16 conversion rate while keeping the consistency from distance for a 4-of-8 time from downtown. Dort orchestrated inside-out play Monday evening as the 22-year-old completely wiped the midrange from his grid — either opting for triples or layups. 

Jeremiah Robinson-Earl reached in his bag for a career-high 16 points across 26 minutes, drumming out an astute 6-of-11 fielding from the floor. Robinson-Earl surfaced as Daigneault’s top catch-and-shoot option as the 20-year-old sank 4-of-6 threes, all of which came off of the catch. Robinson-Earl’s play tapped into rebounding circles as the second-rounder fizzled in five rebounds. 

Aleksej Pokusevski ground out arguably his best patch of play as a pro on Monday, as the 19-year-old added 11 points in 16 minutes. Poku excelled in his minimal court time as the Serb found the bottom on 5-of-6 field goals, finding the bucket across threes, pullups, and slashed inside.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander narrowly grazed double digits against Miami as the guard stacked 10 points, 3 rebounds, and 5 assists. Gilgeous-Alexander’s services were cut off on Monday as the Kentucky alum was stood up from the floor for a 2-of-11 sample while sulking at the line en route to a 1-of-5 stinger. SGA made headway at the foul line, nailing 5-of-6 attempts, however, the guard’s dropoff from distance put a roadblock in the Thunder’s spacing.

Aaron Wiggins added a kick off of the bench dishing in 6 points and 2 rebounds in 19 minutes. Wiggins was the first man off the bench Monday as the 22-year-old slipped in for Darius Bazley seven minutes into the frame — he made his impact early. Wiggins served as a strong corner-sitter in his playing time as the wing managed to bury 2-of-4 shots, all of which rested from the three. 

The Oklahoma City Thunder (5-8) will take a one-day break before taking on the Houston Rockets (1-13) in a battle of youth.

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