In a possible NBA Finals preview, the Oklahoma City Thunder (36-10) travel to South Beach to take on the Miami Heat (32-12).
This is the first meeting between the two teams this season. The Heat won both affairs last season.
Regular season games do not get any bigger than this, and that means Twitter is usually blowing up with information before tipoff.
One of the big trends this month has been the offensive tear that Kevin Durant has been on. He is averaging 36.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 6.1 assists in January.
Will the Heat be able to slow Durant’s scoring tear? Probably not. Durant dropped 73 points while shooting 51 percent from the field in two losing efforts against the Heat last season.
Luckily for the Heat, they have the perfect counter in LeBron James.
Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com notes that James has upped the level of his play during Durant’s hot streak:
James' 10 best games of the season? The past 10, coinciding with Durant's surge. During that stretch James is averaging 28.4 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists. So while he'll stick to publicly praising his friend Durant -- "even in his short career, he's one of the best scorers to ever play," James said Tuesday -- the reigning MVP is highly competitive when it comes to protecting that title.
Westbrook is definitely out after undergoing scope surgery on his right knee, while Wade has played sporadically this season to rest his knees. He will be a game-time decision again Wednesday.
In an article by Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, James talked about how Wade’s missing presence has impacted the team:
"It’s tough," James said. "Guys think it’s easy, but it’s tough. We have a team built on chemistry, built on rhythm. With so many of the guys being in and out, and the concern with D-Wade, it’s been tough on all of us. We’ve got to go in with the mindset sometimes that he’s not playing, as opposed to: Is he playing?"
Even with Wade missing games due to rest/injury, the Heat are just three games back of the Indiana Pacers (35-9) in the lowly Eastern Conference.
And while it is not ideal to be missing one of your best players, the Heat will be all the better for it if Wade is good to go for the postseason.
Even though this is just a regular season game, it is a big one for the Thunder.
They have lost their last three regular season games against the Heat (don't forget the four in a row they dropped in the 2012 NBA Finals).
It will be interesting to see if they are able to get out in fast-break situations and attack Miami’s transition defense, which ranks 29th in transition field-goal percentage (per ESPN Stats and Info).