Thunder having a blast heading to Miami
The Oklahoma City Thunder, who will visit the Miami Heat on Friday night, have won six consecutive games.
The Thunder beat the host Orlando Magic 126-117 on Tuesday night, getting phenomenal production from its top two point guards.
Russell Westbrook produced his fourth straight triple-double with 23 points, 14 assists and 14 rebounds in 38 minutes. That has become somewhat routine for the seven-time NBA All-Star and the league's MVP in 2017.
What was far more surprising was the performance by backup point guard Dennis Schroder. The 25-year-old German, the Atlanta Hawks' first-round pick in 2013, posted 21 points in 28 minutes on Wednesday. He made 8 of 11 shots, including both 3-point attempts.
"Dennis played an incredible second half," Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. "He gave us great separation."
Schroder scored 18 of his 21 points -- including his two 3-pointers and a pair of old-fashioned 3-point plays -- during a second-half stretch in which he made seven consecutive shots.
"I try to stay aggressive," Schroder said. "I look for my shot, and I look for open teammates and make the right play."
The Thunder on Tuesday were without two starters due to injuries -- 7-foot center Steven Adams (sore right ankle) and 6-7 shooting guard Terrance Ferguson (back spasms).
Adams leads the team in effective shooting percentage (61.3), ranks third in scoring (15.4) and second in rebounds (10.0). Ferguson is sixth in scoring (6.5) and fourth in effective shooting percentage (55.9).
Their status for Friday's game was uncertain, although Donovan said both players were full participants in practice in Thursday.
Small forward Paul George continues to step up, as he did on Wednesday with 37 points, making 14 of 24 shots from the floor.
Meanwhile, the Heat are coming off a disappointing performance on Wednesday -- a 105-89 home loss to the lowly Chicago Bulls.
The Heat were without reserve guard Dwyane Wade (knee soreness) and wing Derrick Jones, who was lost earlier this week due to a knee injury that should keep him out until March. Point guard Goran Dragic, a 2018 All-Star, has been out for weeks due to knee surgery and is expected back in mid-February at the earliest.
Miami shot just 38.2 percent from the floor, including 28.6 percent on 3-pointers.
"The missed shots sapped our energy," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Nobody on the Heat scored more than 15 points, which is a recurring problem on a roster that is lacking much in the way of star power.
Spoelstra said he is hopeful of Wade playing Friday after the guard practiced Thursday.
But, even with Wade, it won't get easier on Friday, when the Thunder will dominate in terms of elite talent. The Thunder have won five games in a row in their series against Miami, sweeping the Heat in each of the past two years.
Miami (24-25) is just 10-13 this season against teams who have winning records. Oklahoma City is 32-18.
Miami's struggles have caused Spoelstra to do some soul-searching about his playing-time choices.
"I'm the first to admit I don't know if I'm making the right decisions," he said. "But there has to be a decision. Somebody has to sit."
--Field Level Media
Updated February 1, 2019