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Danny

Thunder at HEAT Official Game Thread and Preview

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(Photo Credit: Nathaniel Butler)

The Miami HEAT host the Oklahoma City Thunder on Christmas Day. Both teams sit atop their respective conferences. The HEAT defeated the Thunder 4-1 in last season's NBA Finals. Tip off is set for 5:50 PM.

1. It’s the big revenge game for Oklahoma City. Whatever the result, will it have any meaning?

Couper Moorhead: This is a storyline game through and through, and when these games come around the results are usually overstated for about 48 hours until we all move on to the next big game and everyone forgets how much the last one meant. It’s nice that both teams will be healthy and rested coming into Christmas Day, but even a 30-point win isn’t going to tell us that one team is definitely better than the other. The things to keep an eye on are the little things, how different lineups interact with one another, how certain big men cover the perimeter and how easily either team is able to get into their transition game off misses.

Danny Martinez: It’s such a bummer to answer this question the same way every time, but no. The result will not have any significant meaning. It’s a fun measuring stick as the Thunder are playing what might be the best basketball in the NBA, but not much more. Rotations and playbooks will change significantly before any potential Finals matchup. Just enjoy the matchup for what it is. It should be really, really fun.

2. How has Kevin Martin changed their second unit in place of James Harden?

Couper: Martin has been everything Oklahoma City would want – as opposed to the version of himself a year ago – shooting well from the perimeter, making defenses react with off-the-ball movement and acquitting himself well enough on the defensive end so as not to be a major negative. But Martin was never going to be able to stabilize second-units with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook the way Harden could, picking and rolling his way to the rim. Durant and Westbrook spend a little more time apart now, each sharing time with Martin once the starting lineup is broken up, and with the ball in their hands more almost every lineup has had a positive efficiency differential.

Danny: Kevin Martin is not the playmaker that James Harden is. He can’t run devastating pick-and-rolls all night with Nick Collison or find Kevin Durant open for spot up threes. But Martin does provide enough shooting that the Thunder’s offense hasn’t missed a beat. It’ll be interesting to see what happens in the postseason when teams scheme for Durant and Westbrook. If Martin can’t create like Harden could, someone else will have to step up.

3. Is Kevin Durant going to spend much time at power forward?

Couper: Scott Brooks doesn’t make Durant play a bit of four every game, but we do have more than 100 minutes of evidence so far, and whenever Durant plays next to Serge Ibaka or Nick Collison in the frontcourt the Thunder destroy their opponents for five-minute stretches. Kendrick Perkins hasn’t hurt the offense this year as much as last, but it’s hard to imagine he’ll be on the court much in the fourth quarter if the game is close, with Brooks opting to slide Durant up a position and get Thabo Sefolosha and Kevin Martin on the court at the same time.

Danny: “Much” is open to interpretation. Against the HEAT, Brooks can play Durant at the four as much as he wants. Those lineups are devastating offensively and they allow the Thunder to get their best players on the floor. Russell Westbrook, Kevin Martin, Thabo Sefolosha, Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka comprise a potent quintet. Durant’s continually improving defense and post game make it possible with him at the four. I hope we get a few minutes to see what happens when both the HEAT and Thunder are “small.” I’m guessing there will be a lot of points scored.

4. Will each coach throw out the kitchen sink in order to win this game?

Couper: I highly doubt it. Erik Spoelstra doesn’t hold back as much as he used to, as far as play-calling goes, but there’s no reason to unveil a new defensive strategy or rotation tendencies four months before the playoffs start. These teams know one another well enough, and each should feel confident enough that what they’ve used up to this point in the season is enough to get a win.

Danny: Nope. There’s really no benefit to it. The teams know each other well, but if there is a small advantage to be had, it’s probably best to keep it filed away until June. We may see a wrinkle here or there, but I doubt we see any significant deviations from the status quo.

5. It’s never one thing, but if you could make a prediction off one statistic, what would it be?

Couper: Three-point shooting. If either team makes more than five threes than the other team, they’ll probably win. Granted, we don’t have an easy statistic to track open three-point shots – if we did, I would be using that – but as well as both teams are expected to execute, there is always a random element to perimeter shooting. And that randomness is often going to be what decides a relatively even matchup.

Danny: Rebounds! I’m kidding, of course. Couper’s hit the nail on the head. Three-point shooting is a big deal for the HEAT. I’m of the belief that pure attempts can be more significant than percentage made. When the HEAT are letting it fly, it’s usually based off of good offense. If we see the HEAT shoot lots of spot up threes, I’d bet things are going well.

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Not a must-win,but will be nice to get the win for the fans,and to keep pace with the Knicks,nonetheless.I'm interested in the BOSH/Ibaka match up.I think BOSH needs to win that match up if MIAMI is to have the advantage in this one.Also,if MIAMI can somehow keep Westbrook from penetrating easily,it'd be beneficial for our success.All in all,MIAMI plays MIAMI ball,MIAMI wins...TEAM HEAT since '88!

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Sorry it's a must win ! After we get blowouts twice against the Knicks, we dont have a significant win (the Nets LOL)

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The only significant wins to this HEAT team are the sixteen needed to host the Larry O'Brien. Win or lose, this will be a very fun game. But a statement game or a "needed" win, not really.

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Sorry it's a must win ! After we get blowouts twice against the Knicks, we dont have a significant win (the Nets LOL)

I feel ya,I'm just trying to keep it in perspective.In all honesty,as a die-hard HEAT fan,I'd like to win all 98 games :D...TEAM HEAT since '88!

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The only significant wins to this HEAT team are the sixteen needed to host the Larry O'Brien. Win or lose, this will be a very fun game. But a statement game or a "needed" win, not really.

That's my motto,Switchblade, 'Just get those 16 wins in the post season'....TEAM HEAT since '88!

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So if i understand you correctly, the HEAT can do a 0 win during the regular season ? Oh wait no playoffs then !

Oh wait where is the respect for the season ticket holder / the fans over the world (yes Lucky06 the Third world too) if the Heat dont care about the regular season ?

Why are you wating for that game then ?

Why not playing tonight with Pittman, Lewis, Harrelson if we dont care about that game

Even if i hate Kobe but give to the man credit, he is fighting to win EVERY damn game !

i still remember the 15 wins during the regular season, i dont want to see that again, it was so frustrating !

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So if i understand you correctly, the HEAT can do a 0 win during the regular season ? Oh wait no playoffs then !

Oh wait where is the respect for the season ticket holder / the fans over the world (yes Lucky06 the Third world too) if the Heat dont care about the regular season ?

Why are you wating for that game then ?

i still remember the 15 wins during the regular season, i dont want to see that again, it was so frustrating !

I'm going to give you the benefit and assume that you're wise enough to understand my responses,my fellow HEAT fan...TEAM HEAT since '88!

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Even if i hate Kobe but give to the man credit, he is fighting to win EVERY damn game ! To shut you down

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So if i understand you correctly, the HEAT can do a 0 win during the regular season ? Oh wait no playoffs then !

Oh wait where is the respect for the season ticket holder / the fans over the world (yes Lucky06 the Third world too) if the Heat dont care about the regular season ?

Why are you wating for that game then ?

Why not playing tonight with Pittman, Lewis, Harrelson if we dont care about that game

Even if i hate Kobe but give to the man credit, he is fighting to win EVERY damn game !

i still remember the 15 wins during the regular season, i dont want to see that again, it was so frustrating !

Please tell me you are not serious. In your attempt to create a stir, your response to my post is a response to what you think I meant rather than what I actually said. I'm sure you don't really think that I am unaware that we need to win games to make the post-season. I remember that 15-win season myself, I was here for every game and understand that we missed the playoffs by far that season.

I also was here when we beat the Boston Celtics int he playoffs, despite going, I believe, 0-4 against them during the regular season. Were all of those rivalrous games probably hyped up at the time as "needed" or "statement" games, such as this one is today? I'd bet my Christmas bonus on it.

My point is - win or lose, the HEAT are more concerned about their progress as a team for the long haul rather than making a statement in the regular season against a team they already made a pretty big statement against by ousting them 4-1 in the NBA Finals. Especially since the Thunder were the "better team" heading into that series.

And where Kobe comes into this discussion is beyond me? I will simply respond to Kobe's "greatness" for his "need" to win every game with the fact that, right now, he actually does need to win every game, with the mighty Lakers being out of the playoff picture in the West if they started tomorrow.

Anything else you'd like me to clear up for you? As aforementioned: this is not a "statement" game. Cut the dramatics and enjoy what will be a very fun game to watch, win or lose. LET'S GO HEAT!

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Lol BOSTON ! Last year we made a lot of statements : The Lakers, The Thunder, the Spurs (With Duncan, parker and co) , the Bulls (with Rose) , The Knicks and this year ??? Oh wait we beat the Nets twice !

Oh yeah we are ready for the playoffs !

Thank you for the fans all over the world and the ticket season holder to follow a boring regular season ! I never said to win all the games but when man we got 2 blowouts against the knicks, it's not because we beat some lottery teams (ok maybe except Atlanta) it means we are ready for the playoffs.

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We're gonna have to play a great game to win. OKC is playing some of the best ball in the league next to the Clippers. Should be exciting, it's always fun to watch the 2 best basketball players in the world go at it.

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We're gonna have to play a great game to win. OKC is playing some of the best ball in the league next to the Clippers. Should be exciting, it's always fun to watch the 2 best basketball players in the world go at it.

No people are saying the most important is the 16 games to get the trophy LOL i mean come on !

If you are a player, this is exactly the kind of game, you would love to play, i mean national tv in a christmas day, if you want to write more in your legacy, then you have to win that game ! Specially when you know that you can meet thoses guys in the finals !

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No people are saying the most important is the 16 games to get the trophy LOL i mean come on !

If you are a player, this is exactly the kind of game, you would love to play, i mean national tv in a christmas day, if you want to write more in your legacy, then you have to win that game ! Specially when you know that you can meet thoses guys in the finals !

Its just 1 game of 82 but it would be great to get this win. We haven't had a really big win all year.

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That's why i said we must win that game, i know it's one game but this is on christmas day, i still remember the win last year against the Mavericks, it was great ! This year we havent seen the real miami heat !

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No people are saying the most important is the 16 games to get the trophy LOL i mean come on !

If you are a player, this is exactly the kind of game, you would love to play, i mean national tv in a christmas day, if you want to write more in your legacy, then you have to win that game ! Specially when you know that you can meet thoses guys in the finals !

You don't get it. Do you really believe a Christmas Day game "writes" more on a players legacy? Seriously, this game doesn't write anymore or less on ones legacy.

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Hmm, great start, but now that run from the thunders. We missed a few open shots, that isn't a problem. But I dont want to see hero ball from James so early in the game.

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Did i say it will be written in their legacy ? Have you seen the real Heat this season so far ? I will help you NO ! Oh yes the famous excuse the most important is the playoffs LOL

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Jesus Serge is getting ref treatment like prime Olajuwon.

Lol poor Martin, it's not fair he should have to guard LeBron.

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