On April 4th, the Miami Heat won a thrilling home game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, 98-93. With the two contenders for MVP, LeBron James and Kevin Durant, going head to head, many NBA fans considered this game to be a preview of the NBA Finals.
Did this loss against the Heat mean that the Thunder aren't ready to win the title this year?
In theory, the answer may be yes. The Thunder may need to be able to beat one of the best teams in the East on the road in order to win the championship.
However, this Heat victory does not automatically make Miami the stronger team. The Heat have yet to show that they are capable of beating the Thunder on the road. On March 25th, the Heat played the Thunder in Oklahoma City and lost 103-87.
Last night was an opportunity for the Heat to reassert themselves, which they certainly did. Miami's win evened the season series between the teams.
Although the Thunder couldn't pull out a win last night, that doesn't mean that they can't beat the Heat in the playoffs. If the Thunder and Heat make it to the finals, they will have to play a seven-game series. The Thunder's resilience and ability to make up large deficits is going to help them flourish in the playoffs.
One thing is for sure: Home court advantage will be a huge factor in the finals.
Oklahoma City's loss to the Heat is not the only thing that could be a concern for the Thunder for the remainder of the season. Other concerns lie within their own conference.
Oklahoma City's biggest threat in the West are the San Antonio Spurs, who hold the second-best record in the conference at 38-14. The Spurs have the same number of losses as OKC and only two fewer wins. On March 16th, the Spurs were able to win in Oklahoma City, 114-105.
Another possible threat to the Thunder is the Memphis Grizzlies. The Griz have been thirsty for revenge ever since last year's playoffs when they were eliminated by the Thunder in an entertaining seven-game series. Just two days before Oklahoma City's loss in Miami, they lost to Memphis 94-88 at home.
Sure, there are a handful of teams that can pull off a win against the Thunder. A loss is still a loss, even if it is against teams like the Miami Heat. However, the majority of the Thunder's losses this season have not been blowouts. The teams that have beat them have had to fight tooth and nail until the very end.
With multiple rounds of seven-game series in the playoffs, the Thunder's consistency and stamina will be among their strongest weapons.
The Thunder have arguably been one of the best teams in the league this entire season, and a loss on the road to the Heat doesn't change that. The championship title is still up for grabs between the two teams.