The Oklahoma City Thunder (18-22) kick off a four-game road trip versus the injury-riddled Miami Heat (21-20), who won the first matchup 110-108 on December 14th. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Aleksej Pokusevski, and Ousmane Dieng are out for Oklahoma City, while Miami will be without Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, Kyle Lowry, Caleb Martin, and Duncan Robinson.
It’s extremely rare for the Thunder to have a nationally televised game these days, so can they deliver with far more viewers than usual? Odds, predictions, key matchups, and starting lineups are below.
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Miami Heat Betting Odds
Miami is favored despite their injuries but not by a huge margin. The spread is -2 Heat with their moneyline at -130. For the Thunder’s +116 moneyline to be profitable long-term, they must win here 47% of the time. The 222.5 over under is one of the lowest totals for Tuesday games.
There are a few noteworthy trends in this matchup. In the last five meetings, the Thunder are 4-1 ATS with the under at 4-1 too. On a broader level, Oklahoma City ranks 2nd ATS (60%) this season and 1st in over percentage (60%), while Miami ranks 28th ATS (41%) and 25th in over percentage (46.3%).
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Miami Heat Prediction
I took the Thunder to cover +4.5 and their +170 moneyline last night (when I thought Bam and Herro were playing), and I am thrilled (and shocked) it is still available at +2.5 and +116. I would immediately pounce on both of those lines.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is an otherworldly driver who places tremendous stress on the rim. His change of pace style, balance, and contact absorption mean even the best perimeter defenders cannot stop him from getting to his spots. Shai averages 30.9 PPG, leads the league in made free throws, and subsequently holds a considerable amount of on-ball gravity. As a result, he creates excellent opportunities for both himself and spot up shooters. The chart below via BBall Index displays this through the metrics 3PT Shot Quality and Rim Shot Creation.
Oklahoma City nearly leads in both categories due to Shai’s brilliance. Now, shot quality doesn’t mean anything if shooters can’t convert – a problem that has stubbornly plagued the Thunder since Kevin Durant’s departure. However, revered shooting coach Chip Engelland is working wonders for this roster, and the Thunder own a 37.9 3PT% over their last 20 games. They can also run a 5 Out scheme at times because Kenrich Williams and Mike Muscala represent their current center rotation, which would enhance their ability to draw defenders away from the rim.
How will this translate against Miami’s defense though? The Heat are stifling in transition, but their half-court defense is vulnerable. Gabe Vincent and Max Strus form an average defensive backcourt that can struggle with screen navigation and recovering. Slashing guards have noticeable success, and three-point shooters acquire good looks once Miami’s defense shades inside. Therefore (per ShotQuality), they rank 29th in Rim & 3 ShotQuality Points Per Possession. That’s a major red flag considering their opponent rosters two of the best slashing guards in the league (Shai and Jalen Williams) and surrounds them with currently capable shooters.
Butler is an elite defender, but he simply doesn’t match up well with Oklahoma City’s offensive goals. He won’t spend time guarding high usage players unless the Heat station him on Shai for stretches. Even then, there is no stopping the Thunder from getting to the rim, and all it takes is one or two screens to detach Butler from Shai. Meanwhile, Adebayo won’t be there to clean up mistakes and deter rim attempts, which is usually vital to their defensive success. Shai attacking the rim will seem like an infinite loop here.
Although I expect Oklahoma City’s offense to find plenty of success versus Miami, can their defense do the same? As the previous chart above depicts, the Heat’s offense struggles with rim shot creation and three-point shot quality. That was before injuries too; Miami is now losing a ton of scoring and playmaking. There will be a heavy burden on Butler to both score and facilitate at an extremely high level.
To make matters worse, the Thunder’s defense (per ShotQuality) ranks 5th in Rim & 3 ShotQuality Points Per Possession despite them lacking a rim protecting center. Although they are the youngest team, the Thunder ooze defensive discipline and rotate extremely well. Luguentz Dort is one of the best defenders in the NBA, and Jalen Williams may join him in that prestigious group soon. With Jimmy Butler entombed inside the Dorture Chamber every possession and a stable of wings ready to switch, it will be tough sledding for Miami’s offense.
Overall, Oklahoma City matches up well with the Heat and should be a decent favorite to win this game. I believe +2 and +110 is undervaluing a surging Thunder squad that ranks 6th in Net Rating over the past ten games.
- Thunder are 45-22-3 ATS in their last 70 games following a ATS win
- Heat are 6-16-1 ATS in their last 23 home games
- Thunder are 4-1 ATS in the last 5 meetings in Miami
- Under is 4-1 in the last 5 meetings
Which team will win the key matchups? Check out below for these vital battles.
Gabe Vincent & Max Strus 3PT Shooting
If the Heat are going to win, then it will take a barrage of three-pointers. Vincent and Strus can both get hot from beyond the arc as spot up shooters; however, Miami needs them to hit off the dribble threes since their usage rate will vastly increase. Without both of them pouring in shots, the Heat’s offense likely becomes utterly anemic and insufficient.
Because of injuries, the Heat will operate with a shortened bench featuring Victor Oladipo, Dewayne Dedmon, Jamal Cain, and potentially Udonis Haslem. While Oladipo and Dedmon can rack up points, the Thunder possess the tools to easily win the bench minutes. Tre Mann, Isaiah Joe, Aaron Wiggins, and Mike Muscala can all catch fire from three, and the unit has crafty playmaking. Meanwhile, Wiggins is an excellent defender who may neutralize Oladipo’s output, and Eugene Omoruyi provides another defensive option. Overall, Oklahoma City should control the bench minutes and churn out a positive plus minus.
Oklahoma City Thunder Starting Lineup
Miami Heat Starting Lineup
Oklahoma City Thunder Injuries: Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (O), Aleksej Pokusevski (O), Ousmane Dieng (O), Chet Holmgren (O)
Miami Heat Injuries: Bam Adebayo (O), Tyler Herro (O), Kyle Lowry (O), Caleb Martin (O), Gabe Vincent (P), Duncan Robinson (O), Dewayne Dedmon (P), Udonis Haslem (Q), Omer Yurtseven (O), Nikola Jovic (O)