A look at the matchups between the Thunder and Heat.
Russell Westbrook vs. Mario Chalmers
Analysis: Chalmers is a solid defender and a superb 3-point shooting threat. He isn't asked to do much alongside the Heat's big three, but he has a knack for coming up with steals and knocking down big shots. Westbrook, however, has the size, speed and strength to potentially take Chalmers completely out of the game. The key for Westbrook will be keeping his composure, maintaining trust in his teammates and the system and playing under control. If Westbrook continues to do those things, like he's done in the previous two games, he'll have a chance to dominate his matchup.
Thabo Sefolosha vs. Dwyane Wade
Analysis: Wade's point production is at its lowest since his rookie year, but don't be fooled by his scoring average. A part of that is due to Wade averaging a career-low 33 minutes, in addition to some nagging injuries. But he's still very efficient, connecting on a career-high 50.5 percent from the field and 80.1 percent from the foul line. And Wade still can take over a game like only a few can. It hurts the Thunder that Sefolosha is being limited to around 20 minutes as he continues to recover from a foot injury. If Sefolosha doesn't play big minutes, Wade could be the biggest key to the game.
Kevin Durant vs. LeBron James
Analysis: Three years ago, LeBron James looked like a guy toying with his little brother in the backyard whenever he faced Durant. Today, the gap has been narrowed and the matchup is now arguably the league's most riveting every time the two step on the floor. The truth is neither can defend the other at this point, so buckle in for a scintillating showdown. But the all-around gifts James has still far exceed Durant's natural scoring ability when it comes to dominating a game. James is running away in the MVP race, putting together one of the most efficient seasons in NBA history while leading his team in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals, field-goal percentage and free throw attempts.
Serge Ibaka vs. Chris Bosh
Analysis: One is a defensive-oriented power forward. The other is offensive-minded. When they hook up, it will be an intriguing matchup of contrasting styles. Bosh is clearly the better player, but Ibaka is a game-changer defensively. The question is whether Ibaka will cover Bosh. The Thunder has wisely allowed Ibaka to cover the weaker of the two opposing post players so he can roam and block shots. If that's the case, Ibaka will have much more success in this game. In a cross-matchup, Bosh also could struggle with Kendrick Perkins' physicality. But Bosh could take both Ibaka and Perk out to the perimeter and exploit them. Keep an eye on this one.
Kendrick Perkins vs. Joel Anthony
Analysis: You wouldn't think two defensive-minded centers that combine to average 7.7 points and are surrounded by All-Stars and future Hall of Famers could change the complexion of this game. But if either of them has a chance to, it's Perkins. The Thunder's center could be a big key in OKC protecting the paint and helping to shut down Miami's pick-and-rolls. There's also the chance Perkins is assigned to Chris Bosh rather than Anthony, meaning Perkins' defense on the Heat's third scoring option could help decide the outcome of the game.
James Harden vs. Shane Battier
Analysis: This one isn't even close. Harden is on his way to becoming the Sixth Man of the Year. Battier is just a nice complementary player who comes off the Heat's bench. Although Battier can still have an impact with his perimeter shooting and man defense, he'd essentially have to help hold Durant to less than 20 points to match the offensive production Harden is capable of providing through scoring and playmaking. Most teams' second units don't have an answer for Harden. If Battier defends Harden, though, Battier could be the biggest challenge Harden has seen all year.
Thunder bench vs. Heat bench
Analysis: Both can and do go 10 deep. The Thunder trots out Derek Fisher, James Harden, Lazar Hayward (or Royal Ivey in place of the injured Daequan Cook), Nick Collison and Nazr Mohammed. Miami will counter with Norris Cole, James Jones, Shane Battier, Udonis Haslem and Ronny Turiaf. The Heat are missing sharpshooter Mike Miller because of an ankle injury. Neither B Team is asked to score much with trios on their respective teams forming the No. 1 and No. 2 highest scoring threesomes in the league. But in Harden, the Thunder has a sixth starter in a sense and a dynamic player that the Heat could only dream of.
Scott Brooks vs. Eric Spoelstra
Analysis: Heat coach Spoelstra got his head coaching job just 13 games earlier than Brooks in the 2008-09 season. For comparisons sake, Spoelstra is 183-109 since taking over. Brooks is 163-118. Both are considered two of the top up-and-coming coaches in the league. Brooks took his team to the Western Conference Finals last season. Spoelstra took his team to the Finals. Both struggle with half-court offense and getting their two biggest stars to play well off each other. But Spoelstra separates himself by adapting. He's changed his philosophy to fit his personnel, implementing a more up-tempo offense while applying more pressure defensively create turnovers that the Heat thrive on in transition.