Image credit @UnderdogGraphix
Who: Miami Heat (33-36) at Oklahoma City Thunder (42-28)
What: Hitting the road-trip
Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK
When: Monday, March 18, 2019, 8:00 p.m. EST
Why: Gain room for playoff push
Injuries: MIA – Justise Winslow (Questionable), OKC – Russell Westbrook (Suspended)
The Miami Heat remain in the eighth spot in the East. They are one game ahead of Orlando and two ahead of Charlotte, who they recently defeated. They are also, however, one-and-a-half games back of Brooklyn and a few behind Detroit. So unless Miami is okay with playing Milwaukee, they can’t spare much ground. After a solid five-game home stand, Miami heads out to play the next four games on the road against some difficult teams. Starting with the OKC Thunder tonight.
Opening up a 4-game road trip tonight! pic.twitter.com/XAZGlncNUF
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) March 18, 2019
The big story heading into tonight is that the Thunder will be without one of their All-Star players in Russell Westbrook. Westbrook was automatically suspended by the NBA for picking up his 16th technical foul on Saturday while playing against the Warriors. OKC got trounced in that game, losing to the defending champs 110-88. Now they look to rebound at home against Miami without Westbrook. The Thunder are 5-3 without him and more than capable with MVP candidate Paul George running the show.
Miami is coming off a big win yesterday afternoon against Charlotte. A game where Miami did not play particularly well, but did enough to hold off the Hornets. The Heat is 16-16 on the road and 13-13 against Western Conference foes this year.
Miami’s offense has struggles without Justise Winslow running the show. If he is forced to miss tonight’s game, then Josh Richardson and Dion Waiters will have to man the back court once again. Derrick Jones Jr. would probably get the start again with Olynyk and Bam up front. The starters will need to shoot the ball better tonight as they were not very good yesterday. Goran Dragic and Dwayne Wade both played key roles in propelling the offense for Miami and they could do the same tonight. This is probably Wade’s last match-up with his friend Paul George.
George will be joined by his usual starters; Jerami Grant, Terrance Ferguson, Steven Adams, and Dennis Schroder (replacing Westbrook). OKC is long and athletic, they are one of the top defensive teams in the NBA. Containing PG-13 will be a lot more challenging than containing Kemba Walker. George dropped 43 points on the Heat in their last match-up in Miami. Schroder also scored 28 off the bench in the win. Needless to say, Miami will need to play much better than they have played of late, even with Westbrook out.
Final score prediction: 98-92 OKC Thunder
Miami has the ability to key in on George defensively, but scoring could be an issue.
The Heat continue their road trip at San Antonio on Wednesday. OKC will face Toronto, also, on Wednesday.