Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Miami Heat Matchup Preview
NBA action from the bubble in Orlando carries on as the Oklahoma City Thunder (43-27) will face off against the Miami Heat (44-27). Both of these teams came into the 2019-20 season with little expectations, and both squads have played better than anyone would’ve expected. Oklahoma City currently finds themselves in the 5th seed in the Western Conference, 1.5 games behind the Rockets for the 4th seed and 0.5 games ahead of the Jazz for the 6th seed. With only two seeding games left, the Thunder can catch up with the Rockets and take the 4th seed. However, it is more likely that they fall to the 6th seed, as the Thunder have a smaller lead over the Jazz than the Rockets do over the Thunder. Oklahoma City would love to get a win to ensure that they don’t fall to the 7th seed.
Meanwhile, the Heat are currently the best they can be in terms of the Eastern Conference standings. They are 3.5 games behind the Celtics for the 3rd seed and only one game ahead of the Pacers, who are in 5th. It is still possible for Miami to fall to the 5th seed, which in a way wouldn’t matter. Of course, they would like to finish with a higher seed, but they’d probably face the Pacers in the first round either way. However, they could still fall to the 6th seed, as the 76ers are only 1.5 games behind the Heat.
Time: 8:00 PM ET
Arena: HP Field House, Orlando, FL
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Thunder Starting 5
The Thunder are coming off of a 128-101 loss to the red-hot Phoenix Suns, who have won six games in a row as of me writing this preview. However, the Thunder did not play all of their starters in this game. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, and Steven Adams all did not play against Phoenix. I expect all of them to be playing against Miami, as that game is of a bit more important. In their absence, Darius Bazley led the way with 22 points, and Abdel Nader scored the 2nd most with 15. Even though they lost by 27, I wouldn’t look into this game too heavily for the Thunder. They were without some of their best players and should be getting back on track for the playoffs. When looking at their matchup against the Heat, I’m not sure who will win this game. Both teams have great defensive centers, scoring ability from their two guards, and crafty veteran point guards. They also both have talented shooters on the wing in Duncan Robinson and Danilo Gallinari. For the Thunder, they will need Adams to play good defense on Adebayo and Gilgeous-Alexander to contain Butler. If the Thunder can eliminate the Heat’s biggest threats offensively, I believe that Oklahoma City could win thanks to the playmaking of Chris Paul. He gets his teammates involved, and they will defeat the Heat if that is something that Miami is unable to do.
Heat Starting 5
The Heat are coming off of an impressive win over the Indiana Pacers. The Heat and Pacers had been tied with the same record heading into this game. Miami was able to win 114-92 and take a game lead over the Pacers for the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference. The Heat won thanks to contributions all across the board for the team. Miami had seven players finish with double-digit points, which is the mark of a good team that can spread the ball well. They were led by Jimmy Butler and Derrick Jones Jr. off the bench, who had 19 and 18 points, respectively. In my Thunder analysis, I said that Miami would need to spread the wealth amongst its players to beat Oklahoma City. If the Heat can replicate the kind of success they had in sharing the ball, they too will have an excellent chance to win in this matchup. The Heat would like to win this game to increase their lead over the Pacers on the 4th seed. Miami plays against Indiana in the last game of the regular season, and if they were to lose this game and Indiana were to win their next, then that game would decide who finishes as the 4th seed. Miami would like to win this game against the Thunder and avoid that situation if possible.
Thunder vs Heat Fantasy Basketball Angle
For the daily fantasy basketball angle for this matchup, I’m going to be highlighting Chris Paul. While there are other players I could’ve picked, I think that Paul will have a good matchup ahead of him against the Heat. Kendrick Nunn left the bubble for personal reasons and is expected to be back in time for the playoffs. He is a very good defensive guard, and the Heat have had to start Goran Dragic in his place. Dragic is not as good of a defender as Nunn, and for that reason, I believe Paul could be in store for a solid game. Given that everyone plays for the Thunder, Paul will have plenty of weapons on offense to pass to and get his fair share of scoring. Dragic is a favorable matchup for Paul, and for that reason, I think he would be a wise start in fantasy for this game.
Thunder vs Heat Betting Odds
Thunder Odds: -155
Heat Odds: +130
The oddsmakers are favoring the Thunder in this game, but only by a small margin. Both of these teams have had similar paths to the playoffs, as neither was really expected to perform well this year. Both teams are led by a veteran guard who is in his first season in that city. I think that this game could go either way. If I were a betting man, I’d probably go with Oklahoma City in this one, but it is very close.
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