MIAMI (CBSMiami/SportsDirect) – It’s been two days since Christmas and the Miami Heat are going to have their hands full when they get back to work.
Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook is enjoying another hot streak and wowed the basketball-viewing world with another strong performance on Christmas Day in a win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Westbrook will try to stay simmering when the Thunder go for their fourth consecutive win and begin a stretch with 14 of 18 games on the road at the Heat on Tuesday.
Westbrook delivered 31 points, 15 assists and seven rebounds in a 112-100 victory over the Timberwolves on Sunday and is averaging 38 points, 12.4 assists and 10 rebounds over the last five contests.
“I don’t know if this is the most fun I’ve had, but it’s definitely at the top,” Westbrook told reporters. “Because the group of guys we have and everybody’s so unselfish. Everybody’s willing to do great things, everybody’s willing to get better. And we’re young and blessed to play this game, and you can’t do nothing but have fun.”
The Heat have a group of young guys trying to get better as well but are not enjoying quite as much success while dropping nine of their last 12 games.
Miami has been off since squandering a 14-point, third-quarter lead in a 91-87 loss at New Orleans on Friday.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, NBATV, FSN Oklahoma, FSN Sun (Miami)
ABOUT THE THUNDER (19-12): Oklahoma City’s brutal stretch of schedule rolls through the end of January and begins with games at Miami and Memphis, though the team should be able to hold its head above water if it can keep finding scorers to compliment Westbrook.
Rookies Alex Abrines and Domantas Sabonis each took a turn being that second scorer last week but the Thunder went to the power in the middle on Sunday and got a combined 42 points from centers Steven Adams and Enes Kanter.
“He’s helping me a lot,” Kanter told the team’s website of Adams. “He’s helping everybody a lot. He’s like a quarterback on the court. … He’s doing a really good job on both ends, offensively and defensively and we’re just having fun every night.”
ABOUT THE HEAT (10-21): Miami can count on production from point guard Goran Dragic and center Hassan Whiteside, but the rest of the roster is more inconsistent.
Second-year small forward Justise Winslow scored 23 points on 10-of-16 shooting and grabbed 13 rebounds in a win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday but slumped to 12 points on 6-of-16 shooting and seven boards at New Orleans the next night.
Reserve shooting guard Tyler Johnson scored 32 points on 13-of-20 shooting in a 136-130 loss to Orlando last week but totaled 25 points on 10-of-27 shooting in the next two contests.
- Thunder reserve SF Jerami Grant is 7-of-11 from 3-point range in the last six games.
- Heat SG Rodney McGruder (ankle) missed the last three games and remains day-to-day.
- Kanter scored a team-high 24 points in a 97-85 home win over Miami on Nov. 7.
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