Thunder at Heat Preview
The Oklahoma City Thunder earned a huge win in their bid for a spot in the Western Conference playoffs by knocking off the top-seeded Houston Rockets on Saturday, but there is still work to be done. The Thunder will try to get a step closer to the postseason and post back-to-back wins when they visit the Miami Heat on Monday.
Oklahoma City is in a three-way tie for the No. 5 spot in the West entering play on Sunday but is just one game ahead of the ninth-place Denver Nuggets with two games left in the regular season. “Just better not lose,” All-Star forward Paul George told reporters. “That’s what it comes down to. We better not lose. We control our destiny at this point, but we’ve got to have the mindset that we need these wins. We’ve got to come out and play our game, and that’s always been good enough for us.” The Thunder get lowly Memphis at home in the season finale on Wednesday but could get a challenge from the Heat, who are among three teams that seem to be fighting over the No. 7 spot in the East and the right to face the injury-depleted Boston Celtics in the first round. “You want to go into the playoffs on a high note, you don’t want to be losing three in a row,” Miami guard Dwyane Wade told reporters after a 122-98 loss to the lowly New York Knicks on Friday. “You want to definitely go in winning and feeling good about yourself. The seeds, whatever happens at the end of the day from seeds standpoint, is what it is. We’re at the bottom we’re going to play a Goliath team anyway. It really doesn’t matter. We want to continue to play good basketball.”
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, FS Oklahoma, FS Sun (Miami)
ABOUT THE THUNDER (46-34): Oklahoma City outscored Houston 28-19 in the fourth quarter on Saturday as Russell Westbrook led a strong defensive effort by locking down MVP candidate James Harden. “Our communication was at an all-time high tonight, throughout the whole game and especially throughout that fourth quarter when it was time to get stops and make plays,” forward Carmelo Anthony told reporters. “We competed, we talked it out and we made plays when we had to.” Anthony contributed 22 points on 7-of-14 shooting in the win after going 4-of-16 in a loss to the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday.
ABOUT THE HEAT (43-37): Miami coach Erik Spoelstra would like to see his team playing well as they head into the playoffs and was not pleased with the effort against the Knicks. “I don’t want to take away from what they did. They played a great game,” Spoelstra told reporters of New York. “But the best way to say it is all across the board we were a no-show. I hardly recognized our team tonight compared to who we’ve been and how we’ve been playing.” The Heat, who allowed the Knicks to knock down 18 3-pointers on Friday, finish up the regular season by hosting the East-best Toronto Raptors on Wednesday.
1. Thunder PF Jerami Grant is 15-of-21 from the floor over the last four contests.
2. Heat PG Goran Dragic is shooting 53.3 percent from the field over his last five games.
3. Oklahoma City took the last four in the series, including a 105-99 home win on March 23.