Here are three keys to the Miami Heat’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder Wednesday night at Kaseya Center.
1. Transition play is again at the forefront, but it’s different this time
While a focus on Monday against the Rockets was to find ways to score on Houston’s best-in-class transition defense, the Thunder present a different sort of full-court test.
The Thunder rank fourth in overall offensive rating and 10th in transition scoring, per Cleaning The Glass.
The Heat, on the other hand, rank 17th in overall offense and 28th in transition scoring. It will be hard to keep up with Oklahoma City in the full court.
It doesn’t help matters that Miami is one of the worst 10 teams in the league in allowing transition points. The Heat tightened things up defensively in Monday’s win, but the Thunder – led by MVP-candidate Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – present a much stiffer challenge.
2. Can the Heat score on the Thunder?
Guess what? The Thunder are an elite defense, too.
In fact, they are one of four teams in the league that rank in the top 10 in offensive rating and defensive rating, joining the Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers and Denver Nuggets. That’s contender-class company, and it’s the kind of team OKC is this season.
What makes the Thunder especially difficult to score against is their ability to create turnovers. They are second in the league in generating steals and first in blocks. Shai, Jalen Williams and Lu Dort are predatorial in passing lanes, while 7-foot-1 rookie Chet Holmgren has a chance to block anything that comes his way near the rim.
Against Oklahoma City’s length, drives will be hard to come by and open looks from the mid-range will close in a hurry. The Heat will have to grind to get open shots, and will need to make some tough ones.
The Thunder tend to foul quite a bit (on 28.2% of opponent possessions, which ranks 26th in the league). Without Butler for the fifth straight game, it will be on Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro and Jaime Jaquez Jr. to get to the line.
3. Second-chance points can be a swing factor
The Thunder are not a good rebounding team. Only the Washington Wizards allow more offensive rebounds than the Thunder, who give up 33.1% of available offensive boards to opponents.
There will be opportunities for Adebayo, Kevin Love and Miami’s physical wings to crash the boards for second-chance points. The Heat also give up the fifth-fewest offensive rebounds in the league, creating an opening for an X-factor.
For the Heat, the challenge will be balancing how aggressively they crash the boards versus the urgency to get back on defense against Oklahoma City’s transition attack. Spoelstra’s squad will have to be smart about when they crash and when they get back.