Grinding Heat

It didn’t take too long to figure out the new, temporarily Boshless, permanently deWaded Miami Heat: they’re last year’s Memphis Grizzlies, albeit without being as doggone old as last year’s Memphis Grizzlies. Their game plan was simple enough: slow things down, keep the Thunder at about 60-percent speed. The Thunder declined, rolling up 39 points in the first quarter. Miami was a bit more successful in the second, holding Oklahoma City to a mere 16, though the Heat scored only 19 themselves. Still, the Heat kept creeping up, until a couple of minutes into the third, when OKC ran off 20 points in a row in less than six minutes and never allowed the Heat to make up the difference until the very end. The final was 97-85, and the Thunder are 6-1, 4-0 at home.

It wasn’t all horrible for Miami; OKC expat Dion Waiters, starting on the wing, got a pretty enthusiastic greeting from Loud City that I suspect will not be duplicated when the Warriors show up. (Then again, Waiters went 1-9 for two points.) And it didn’t hurt to have two Johnsons on the bench: James and Tyler came up with 28 points between them. But I have to figure that Erik Spoelstra will be tinkering with things even further in an effort to get this team into respectability. Meanwhile, Russell Westbrook had a fairly terrible night, 14 points and 11 assists in 26 minutes; he didn’t play in the fourth quarter at all. It was left to Enes Kanter to roll up the score, and Kanter did not disappoint, collecting 10 rebounds to go with 24 points. Domantas Sabonis nailed a double-double of his own, his first in the league, with 15 points and ten boards.

Perhaps Westbrook is being rested for Wednesday, when the Raptors arrive from Toronto; he’ll need to be at full strength to counter the DeStructive powers of DeMar DeRozan, currently leading the league in scoring with 33.7 points per game. (Westbrook has a modest 33.2.) And the Raptors, even when they weren’t a major power in the East, had a pretty good record against OKC in recent years; there’s no compelling reason to think this will change.

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