MIAMI (CBSMiami) – In what could be a NBA Finals preview, the hottest team in the NBA, the Oklahoma City Thunder, will take on the two-time defending NBA Champion Miami Heat Wednesday night at the AmericanAirlines Arena.
It’s a game that will feature the two best players in the NBA and also a budding rivalry that dates back to comments made during the offseason.
The Heat has a simple task ahead of them: Stop, or at least slow down OKC Thunder superstar Kevin Durant. It’s an easy task to say, but it’s been almost impossible for any NBA team to do anything to get Durant off of his game the last few weeks.
The 6’9” OKC forward has been pouring in points at an almost unbelievable clip in recent games. He’s scored at least 30 points in 11 straight games. Durant has six 40-point games this season and around two weeks ago dropped 54 points on a talented Golden State team.
“He’s a great guy to compete against,” the Heat’s LeBron James told CBS4 news partner the Miami Herald about Durant. “I wish I could compete against him every night because he brings that competitive nature out.”
The Heat is in a familiar position that opponents have been in the past few years, trying to stop an almost unstoppable player. For Heat opponents, the task has been trying to slow down the best player in the game, LeBron James. For the Heat tonight, it will be dealing with Durant.
The Heat, and the Heat’s fans, will just have to accept that Durant will get his fair share of points in the game and will hit a lot of tough shots. But, the key will be to keep Durant from getting into any rhythm and to simultaneously try to keep the rest of the Thunder in check.
“That’s all you can do. Individually, he can’t be stopped by any one-on-one player,” James told the Herald. “It’s going to be a team thing. I’m going to be matched up against him, but I have to have ears and eyes behind me to know where my help is coming from.”
The game may be just what the Heat need to wake up from a rough few weeks. The Heat looked disinterested until the Spurs came to town and Miami wiped the floor with last year’s Western Conference champions.
Bringing in the NBA’s hottest team and player could give the Heat a spark to see if the team can still dial up the intensity when it wants or may need to work a little harder even in the meaningless games.
There will also be a secondary plotline in the game between Durant and Heat superstar Dwyane Wade. In the offseason, Durant said James Harden should be among the Top 10 players, not Wade. The Heat’s superstar responded on Twitter, “Note to self: Make him respect your place in history.” Durant responded, “Show me, don’t tweet me.”
For Wade, the first half of the season has been rough. He’s been in and out of the lineup while dealing with knee issues. He returned in the Heat’s last game after missing four games and came off the bench to help the Heat knock out the Spurs.
Wade told the Herald there is no bad blood between him and Durant and said the two have alsways been cordial with each other, but added, “My top 10 is different than his top 10.”
The Heat and Thunder will tip off Wednesday night at 7 p.m. and can be seen on Sun Sports and ESPN.
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