Miami Heat Brace for Thunder, Offensive Storm


The Miami Heat (18-22) are back home after a five-game road trip but it’s not exactly the welcoming you’d like to see as they prepare to face the Oklahoma City Thunder (20-20) on Tuesday.

The Thunder have had a tumultuous season, enduring early injuries to superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook and are now fighting for their playoff lives. The Western Conference takes no prisoners and even a team as talented and deep as OKC might not make it to the postseason. But they’ve reached the .500 mark for just the second time all season and are looking to surpass for the first time against the Heat.

Part of the reason for the Thunder’s recent surge is their increased scoring. OKC has a number of offensive options, including Durant’s efficient 25.4 points per game and Westbrook’s dynamic athleticism (good for 25.1 PPG). But Serge Ibaka, known mostly for his exceptional defense, has expanded his range and can be dangerous from outside.

And mid-season acquisition Dion Waiters has provided an unexpected scoring punch off the bench.

Waiters might be the reason that Oklahoma City makes the playoffs. As he settles in to his role as a reserve scorer, he gives the Thunder something they’ve lacked not just on the floor but off. His confidence (which makes Mario Chalmers look like a shy wallflower) is legendary but it’s a nonchalant attitude that seems to be inspiring his teammates to reach unprecedented levels. In fact, how Miami defends Waiters might be the key to the game.

Luol Deng will have his hands full with Durant and you can expect Chalmers or rookie Shabazz Napier (if Dwyane Wade remains out of the lineup) to get into early foul trouble against Westbrook. The question is which Miami reserve will be able to limit Waiters? Norris Cole is an option but OKC backup point guard Reggie Jackson is an erratic but capable scorer. This is what will define Miami’s chances of pulling off a victory, especially at home where they’ve gone a disappointing 7-12 at the AmericanAirlines Arena.

If a blowout does happen, look for Erik Spoelstra to go to his bench early with a back-to-back set for Wednesday night when Miami travels to face division rival Charlotte.

Check back with All U Can Heat for a full recap, post-game grades and more.


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