Monday’s game against the Thunder marked the start of a difficult, but important, stretch for the Heat.
Well, Miami is off to a strong start.
The Heat (34-36) defeated the Thunder 116-107 on Monday at Chesapeake Energy Arena to earn its first win in Oklahoma City since the 2013-14 season. It marked the beginning of a 13-game stretch for Miami that included nine on the road to close the regular season.
The victory strengthened the Heat’s hold on the Eastern Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot. With the Magic and Hornets both idle Monday, Miami moved 1.5 games ahead of No. 9 Orlando and 2.5 games ahead of No. 10 Charlotte.
The Heat also gained ground on the teams immediately in front of it in the standings. Miami pulled within one game of No. 7 Brooklyn and two games of No. 6 Detroit.
Monday didn’t start well for the Heat, though, as the Thunder (42-29) opened the game on a 13-0 run. But Miami responded with a 41-16 run to flip the script and take a 12-point lead with 8:13 remaining in the second quarter behind 18 first-half points from Goran Dragic.
The Thunder eventually closed the gap to just three points entering halftime, but the Heat won the third quarter 28-20 and extended its lead to as many as 19 points in the fourth quarter.
Oklahoma City cut Miami’s lead to six with 1:52 to play, but the Heat’s 67-10 edge in bench points was too much for the Thunder to overcome. Heat reserve guards Dwyane Wade (25 points, four rebounds and five assists) and Dragic (26 points, five rebounds and 11 assists) combined for 51 points on 19-of-34 shooting from the field and 7-of-13 shooting on threes.
Without All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City shot 43.7 percent from the field and just 10 of 37 on threes. All-Star forward Paul George led the Thunder with 31 points.
While Oklahoma City was without Westbrook, Miami also played shorthanded. The Heat was without Justise Winslow (right thigh bruise) and Rodney McGruder (left knee soreness).
In the teams’ first meeting of the season, the Thunder defeated the Heat 116-102 in Miami on March 2. Oklahoma City is in the middle of a rough stretch, though, with a 4-9 record in its past 13 games.
Next up for the Heat is a Wednesday matchup against the Spurs in San Antonio, which is the second contest on Miami’s four-game trip.