OKLAHOMA CITY (CBSMiami/SportsDirect) – It’s been a rough couple weeks for the Miami Heat.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are quietly proving to be among the best teams in the NBA while the Heat are trying to prove themselves a legitimate contender to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference.
The Heat could go a long way toward making that case with a win when they visit the Thunder on Sunday.
Miami has not had much luck against potential playoff teams on its six-game road trip, falling to Utah, Golden State and the Los Angeles Clippers in consecutive games before squeezing out a victory over the Denver Nuggets to stop the slide on Friday.
The Heat, who beat Phoenix on Jan. 8 to begin the excursion, are hoping star Dwyane Wade (shoulder) is available when they try to clinch a .500 trip on Sunday.
The Thunder are comfortably off the record paces being set by the Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs in the West but are winners of 18 of the last 22 to make things more exciting.
That stretch began just after a 97-95 setback at Miami on Dec. 3, when Wade scored the last two of his 28 points at the free-throw line in the final seconds to clinch the win.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, FSN Sun (Miami), FSN Oklahoma
ABOUT THE HEAT (23-17): Miami will make a brief pit stop at home to host Milwaukee on Tuesday before heading out for eight of the next nine on the road and is 8-9 away from its own arena.
Wade has been playing through pain in the shoulder for most of the trip and finally sat out on Friday but is expected to be back in the lineup on Sunday.
The Heat did not need Wade with Hassan Whiteside operating at peak defensive intensity as the center recorded 19 points, 17 rebounds and 11 blocks in the win over the Nuggets.
ABOUT THE THUNDER (29-12): Oklahoma City showed off how efficient its offense is becoming under first-year coach Billy Donovan in a 113-93 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday that ran the latest winning streak to three straight.
“We had a high number assists and a low number of turnovers,” Donovan explained to reporters. “Defensively, for the majority of the game, we played very well. We did a good job of attacking the paint on offense.”
Russell Westbrook logged a triple-double as the Thunder handed out 31 assists and turned it over six times.
- Thunder G Dion Waiters is averaging 19 points in the last two games after totaling 13 points in the previous three contests.
- Heat G Goran Dragic (calf strain) has missed the last two games and is not expected to play on Sunday.
- The Heat have won four of seven in the series since LeBron James led Miami over Oklahoma City in the 2012 NBA Finals.
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