Despite a fantastic start by the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Miami Heat was able to flip the script and pick up a 116-107 win at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Monday night.
The Thunder managed to get off to one of their best starts of the season as they ran off 13 straight points through the first five minutes of the game thanks to the defense locking in and the offense sharing the ball. The lead didn’t last, though, as the Heat went on a crazy run of their own.
Over the next five minutes of the first quarter, Miami outscored OKC 20-6 to take a 20-19 lead with 2:12 remaining in the period. The Thunder struggled to hit shots, and the Heat finished the quarter strong with a 27-25 lead.
The Heat kicked off the second quarter by extending their lead to 12 thanks to a 10-0 run. Miami maintained their big lead for a few minutes as they led 41-29 with 8:13 left in the half. OKC managed to slowly chip away at the deficit from that point forward, and by halftime, the Thunder had closed the gap to trail just 58-55.
Despite ending the first half with some momentum, the Thunder started the second half cold on the offensive end. Miami started the third on a 9-2 run through the first three minutes to take a 67-57 lead. The Heat continued to pour it on OKC as they pushed the deficit to 79-64 with 3:37 left in the period. A couple of buckets by the Thunder to end the third cut it to 86-75 with one quarter to go.
OKC started off the fourth working on a comeback as they quickly cut the deficit to 7 points, but the Heat did what they had done all night long and answered with an 8-0 run to go right back up by 15 points with 9:02 left in the game. Miami continued their work and pushed the run to 15-3 to give the Heat their largest lead of the night at 101-82 with 7:29 to go.
All of a sudden, the Thunder finally started to wake back up and play with a slight sense of urgency. After trailing by 19, OKC was able to cut the deficit to 6 with 1:52 left in the game. Goran Dragic missed a 3 on the next possession, and Paul George corralled the rebound, but Terrance Ferguson bobbled the ball in transition. The turnover was the 19th of the night for the Thunder, and the Heat managed to push the lead back to 10 before finishing the game on top 116-107.
Thunder Player of the Game
On a night where the Thunder desperately needed some backup due to Russell Westbrook’s suspension, Jerami Grant answered the call of duty. Grant finished the night with a career-high 27 points while shooting 10-for-16 (62.5%) to go along with 10 rebounds and 3 blocks. While this type of output is not to be expected every single game moving forward, the Thunder will definitely need Grant’s contributions if they want to get a favorable seed in the playoffs.
3 Quick Thoughts
- Take Care of the Ball! For the sixth time this season, the Thunder finished with a least 19 turnovers. In the previous 5 games, OKC won a surprising 4 of them, but that was because they were able to force turnovers on the other end. That was not the case tonight as the Heat turned the ball over just 8 times. The Thunder’s defense has been mediocre at best for quite some time now, and unless they get back to taking the ball away from opponents, they absolutely cannot afford to give the ball up themselves.
- Rework the Offense: Something isn’t working. The Thunder went through a period where they were red hot from three, but that has definitely not been the case for some time now. Since the All-Star Break, OKC is making just 32.7% of three-point attempts. Still, they keep putting up a ridiculous number of them. Tonight, the Thunder attempted 37 threes, and they made just 10 of them. While a handful of those attempts came in a moment of desperation at the end, the fact still stands: this team shoots too many jumpers when what they need to be doing is attacking the paint.
- No Time Like the Present: With 11 games left in the regular season, the Thunder really cannot afford to lose very many more. The loss tonight drops OKC to the 6th-spot in the West, and the schedule is not getting any easier. With that being said, now is not the time to panic. This team is capable of hanging with the best in the league, despite the fact that they have certainly not played like it lately. At this point, the Thunder simply needs to take it a game a time as the postseason draws near.
The Thunder has a scheduling anomaly coming up next as they play the Toronto Raptors in consecutive games. The Raptors are comfortably locked in at the 2-seed in the East, but they are still hoping to catch the Milwaukee Bucks for the top spot.
The first matchup between the Thunder and the Raptors is on Wednesday in Oklahoma City, and tip-off is set for 8:30 PM. The game will be televised on ESPN and Fox Sports Oklahoma, and it will also be broadcast on the radio at WWLS 98.1 FM.
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