Let's Pregame: Thunder @ Heat (4/4/12)
Who takes more shots, Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook?: The million dollar question, hotly debated throughout the season. This question will be hanging over OKC through the rest of the regular season and the playoffs. Durant, the former Rookie of the Year, two-time scoring champ, and possible MVP (more on this soon), has only taken seven...yes, seven...more shots all season than his teammate point guard Westbrook. And yet, the Thunder have the West's #1 seed and continue to win. Durant recently said that the team is most successful when he himself is more of an initiator in the offense, while Westbrook continues to be aggressive (read: shoot, shoot, shoot). But this is the point guard we're talking about, which is why I think this will end up biting the Thunder in the ass during crunch time and in the playoffs against tough defenses.
MVP statement game: KD35 takes on LBJ in a battle of MVP candidate small forwards. Durant got the best of Lebron in their matchup a little more than a week ago, so it'll be interesting to see if he can get easy shots off again against possibly the best perimeter defender in the league. If the Thunder win this game, and Durant dominates Lebron again, it'll push more voters to give the award to the Durantula. However, if the Heat win, and Lebron displays his better overall game (defense, rebounding, passing) to lead his team to victory--with possibly a clutch 4th quarter performance--Durant will move into a slight second place. It's that close.
Seeding at stake: While OKC beat the East's #1 seed Bulls on Sunday (even if they were Rose-less), they suffered a bit of a letdown loss against the Grizz on Monday night. All of a sudden, they are only one game ahead of the resurgent Spurs in the loss column for the Western Conference lead. A victory tonight would not only let them remain (at least for now) atop the West, but also push them closer to the best record in all of the NBA--home court advantage all the way through the Finals (against, say, the Heat) in their quest for a championship.
Home Court Advantage: The Heat look to avenge last week's brutal loss to the Thunder with a win on their home court, where they have only lost twice the entire season. Furthermore, the Heat have won 16 consecutive games at the American Airlines Arena. Fueled by the boisterous crowd and the return of Dwayne Wade, the Heat should seize their momentum and get ready to run with the energetic Thunder.
Wade and Bron: They ex-best one-two punch in the league are going against the new best one-two punch in facing Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Wade will be guarded at times by Thabo Sefolosha, one of the best on ball defenders in the game, and James Harden, the potential sixth man of the year and a pesky defender. Wade will have to be as explosive as ever to beat these defenders of the dribble, a taxing challenge with his bum knees. Lebron will be matchuped up with Kevin Durant throughout the game, an epic showdown that should leave viewers glued to their television sets. Lebron should look to challenge the 6'10 Durant in the post rather than off the dribble, as Durant is more sneaky fast than sneaky strong.
Much in the Clutch: Though the teams' last meeting wasn't too exciting, tonight's game will be an epic showdown. Both teams are young enough to run/gun and smart/patient enough to play a half court set. The game will be close throughout and should come down to the fourth quarter. Lebron will have to come up big in the clutch against Durant, who is deemed the most clutch player in the NBA (he leads the NBA with 126 points in clutch situations, which is defined as the score within five points or less in the final five minutes). Wade will ease Lebron's burden, and Chris Bosh should look for the kick out with three seconds left when Lebron ends up driving and dishing.
Though favored, the Heat will fall short tonight in this tightly contested battle, losing to the Thunder as Lebron won't be able to come up in the clutch.
OKC 98 - Heat 94
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Armaan and Danny
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