Thunder Clinches Playoff Berth With Comeback Win in Miami

The Oklahoma City Thunder had a memorable night as they clinched a playoff berth in dramatic fashion by knocking off the Heat in Miami 115-93.

The Thunder got off to one of the worst starts in recent memory, possibly for the entire the season, as the Miami Heat started 9/11 from the field and jumped out to a 23-5 lead seven minutes into the game. Oklahoma City missed their first 10 shots from the field, but the rest of the first period went a little differently.

After shooting 0/10 from the floor to start the game, Alex Abrines checked in and broke the drought for the Thunder as he immediately hit a shot from three. Over the final five minutes of the first quarter, the Thunder went on a 16-4 run while shooting 6/10 and holding Miami to just 3/13. After twelve minutes of play, the Heat held a 27-21 advantage over the Thunder.

The second quarter featured more of the Thunder’s struggling offense, but their ability to get to the free throw line and knock down some threes kept the game close. After turning the ball over four times in the first quarter, Oklahoma City only gave it away once in the second, and Paul George led the way for the Thunder after he hit three consecutive shots from beyond the perimeter to bring his total to 14 points for the half.

Russell Westbrook had a productive second quarter to bring his first half totals to 10 points, nine rebounds, and five assists. Carmelo Anthony chipped in with eight points and three rebounds, and at the half, Miami held a small 52-49 lead.

The third quarter was a bit of a roller coaster for the Thunder as they were able to keep it close and even tie the game at two different points. The problem for Oklahoma City, however, was that after tying it, they were unable to take the lead. With 8:05 to go in the third, the Thunder tied it up at 65-65, but the Heat broke that tie with an 8-0 run. Oklahoma City then tied it back up at 76-76 with just under two minutes left in the period, and Miami answered with five straight points to end the quarter with the 81-76 advantage.

As bad as the Thunder started the game, the fourth quarter was the polar opposite. Just a minute-and-a-half into the final period, Oklahoma City grabbed their first lead of the game at 85-84. Miami would retake the lead on the next possession, but that would be the last time that the Heat would be on top for the rest of the night.

Having already tallied a triple-double through three quarters, Russell Westbrook checked into the fourth quarter with 8:22 left in the game and a tied score of 86-86, and he continued his dominant play to finish with 23 points, 18 rebounds, and 13 assists.. For the remainder of the quarter, the Thunder outscored the Heat 29-7 to cap a ridiculous 40-point swing.

3 Quick Thoughts

  • The Three Ball Was Falling: The Thunder started off the game a miserable 0/10 from the field, including 0/3 from three, but Oklahoma City was able to turn things around specifically from beyond the arc. For the game, the Thunder shot 14/35 (40%) from three, which ultimately helped get them back into the game. Paul George seemed to find his shot, something that’s been missing since the All-Star Break, as he shot 5/13 (38.5%). The bench was especially accurate from deep as they shot 6/10 (60%), and every one of them was necessary in fueling the Thunder to a big win.
  • Free Throws Are Improving: After two games of shooting a combined 29/48 (60.4%) from the free throw line in losses against the San Antonio Spurs and the Denver Nuggets, the Thunder has shot over 70% from the line in each game, seeing an improvement in every game. Tonight, Oklahoma City shot 31/38 (81.6%) from the charity stripe, making it only the second time all season where they shot at least 30 free throw attempts making at least 80% of them. This is the type of improvement the Thunder has needed at the free throw line, and it could not have come at a better time with the playoffs on the horizon.
  • The Bench Was Key: Oklahoma City’s bench has taken a lot of heat this season because of their inconsistency, but when they have shown up, they have shown out. Tonight, the second unit combined for 41 points on 11/19 from the field and 13/15 from the free throw line. Jerami Grant led the way with 17 points on 4/6 shooting and an incredible 9/11 from the free throw line to go along with five rebounds and two blocks. Raymond Felton added in nine points, and Patrick Patterson added in seven points, and the bench played one of their best games in the season in one of the most important games of the season.

Regular Season Finale at Home

The Thunder is headed home to Oklahoma City where they will finish off the regular season hosting the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night. The Thunder owns a 3-0 advantage over the Grizzlies so far this season, but they haven’t all been easy. Oklahoma City has clinched a playoff berth, but a win in the regular season finale could set them up for homecourt advantage in the first round. Tip-off is set for 7 PM CT and will be televised on FSOK. The game will also be broadcast on the radio on WWLS 98.1 FM.

Be sure to check out this week’s episode of Thunder Things with the Thunder Guys.

Article written by Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter & Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

Leave a Reply