Why should you watch the Miami Heat take on the Oklahoma City Thunder? Oh, let me count the reasons.
These are two of the best teams in the NBA. Both teams come into this game hot, the Heat having won seven straight while the Thunder recently had a five-game winning streak snapped.
This is must-watch television, folks. Let's take a closer look at this midseason clash of titans.
Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK
When: Thursday, Feb. 14, at 8 p.m. ET
Streaming: NBA League Pass
Listen: XM 218 (Internet 900)
Betting Line: N/A
Heat Injuries (via ESPN)
None to Report
Thunder Injuries (via ESPN)
G Jeremy Lamb, Lower Back Strain, Out
Oh, let's see:
- This is a rematch of the 2011-12 NBA Finals.
- The Heat and the Thunder are the NBA's two best teams despite what they might have to say in San Antonio.
- These two teams may have started a rivalry last season that will one day be compared to the duels between the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics in the '80s.
- LeBron James and Kevin Durant are the most compelling superstars in the league.
- Russell Westbrook and Dwyane Wade are the most talented sidekicks in the NBA and could easily be headlining for just about any other NBA team.
- These are the two most exciting teams in the league to watch. The Thunder are second in the league in scoring (106.2 points per game), while the Heat are fifth in that regard (103.1 points per game).
I think that just about covers it. If you need convincing as to why this game is a must-watch, you aren't an NBA fan.
Key Matchup: Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins vs. Chris Bosh
When these teams met in the NBA Finals last season, a few things became apparent. For the most part, these teams are a wash on the wings and at the guard position, though it's obvious LeBron James is the best player on the planet.
The Heat also proved to be more composed in crunch time and clearly showed its veteran advantage and experience.
So where do the Thunder gain an advantage in this matchup? Are the Thunder simply an extremely talented team that will play second fiddle in the burgeoning Heat dynasty?
I don't think so. The Thunder have a chance to beat Miami in the paint and on the boards, where Miami is vulnerable. It's obvious Chris Bosh isn't a traditional center, while Udonis Haslem might not even play in this game after leaving Tuesday's game with a lower right leg contusion.
However, according to Shandel Richardson of the Sun-Sentinel, x-rays were negative.
The Heat average 38.7 rebounds per game, 30th in the NBA (update). Bosh isn't a traditional center. If the Thunder have an advantage in this matchup, its banging the boards down low. The Thunder average 42.9 rebounds per game, 11th in the NBA.
This is where OKC needs to take advantage of the Heat.
X-Factor: LeBron James
It may be the obvious choice, but let's be honest—who else would it be?
Nobody is playing at the level of LeBron these days. Heck, nobody has played close to the level LeBron is currently at in years. Years, I say!
According to ESPN Stats and Information (on Tuesday), "LeBron is averaging 27.0 points, 8.1 rebounds and 6.9 assists this season. The last player to average at least 27 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists in a single season was Michael Jordan (1988-89)."
Oh, and there's this, too (via NBA on Twitter):
Yeah, he's on fire. And when you consider that LeBron is currently shooting 56.5 percent from the field—a mark Jordan never sustained over a full season—it's not an overstatement to say that we're seeing a new type of domination from LeBron this year.
Obviously, LeBron may not finish with such a high shooting percentage. And I'm not suddenly saying LeBron has become a better player than Jordan. But few players have ever dominated every facet of the game in quite the same way as LeBron is doing this year.
So no matter what happens in this game—Durant and Westbrook go off, the Thunder totally dominate on the block, the OKC bench totally outperforms Miami's bench—LeBron is the great equalizer. If he dominates in every aspect of the game as he's been doing, Miami will keep things close.
Projected Starting Lineups
PG: Mario Chalmers
SG: Dwyane Wade
SF: LeBron James
PF: Udonis Haslem
C: Chris Bosh
PG: Russell Westbrook
SG: Thabo Sefolosha
SF: Kevin Durant
PF: Serge Ibaka
C: Kendrick Perkins
I'll give the Thunder a slight edge being at home, but I'll give the Heat an even bigger edge for being the team with LeBron James. The Heat win a shootout, 110-106.