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OKC Thunder-Miami Heat: Five questions for Sunday's game

Does Miami have an answer for James Harden? Which team executes better down the stretch? Darnell Mayberry tackles five important questions for Sunday's game.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: March 24, 2012

It's been well-documented how both teams have struggled with half-court offense the past two seasons, particularly late in games. This is a chance to see which team plays like the more mature bunch when easy baskets aren't available, especially in crunchtime. In James, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, both teams have a pair of the best closers in basketball. At times, though, it's been each team's over-reliance on their stars, in addition to unimaginative offense, which has led to late-game struggles. The team that shows the most discipline in running through sets and doing small things like setting solid screens and running hard off of them could have a leg up. Of course, there's always the chance that whichever team's star has it going the most is the side that's going to win. If that happens, nothing else will matter.

Can the Heat survive the Thunder's size advantage?

Miami doesn't have a dominant big man on either end of the floor. After starting power forward Chris Bosh and center Joel Anthony, the Heat have a huge drop off. Udonis Haslem is a rugged reserve at power forward, and Miami is hoping Ronny Turiaf can still supply some productive minutes. And even though the Thunder lacks an interior scorer, the Heat could get pounded on the glass. Many have called the Thunder's four-man rotation of Kendrick Perkins, Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison and Nazr Mohammed the best in basketball. They've had their share of problems against athletic big men and big men with versatility. But the Heat don't have much of any of that. It could be a chance for the Thunder to dictate the style and tempo of the game.

Can Miami win in OKC?

The Thunder has been dominant at home save a few recent slip-ups. Therefore, if the Thunder handles the Heat rather easily it could provide another shred of evidence that it's absolutely critical for the Thunder to get home-court advantage through the Finals. Dallas defeated Miami in last year's Finals despite not entering the series with home court advantage. But the Mavs stole it from Miami in Game 2 before winning the series on the Heat's court in Game 6. We're not sure the Thunder is quite there yet, although OKC did win three road games — one in each of its three series — in last year's postseason. The Heat are currently 20-2 at home, and in last year's postseason they came one win shy of tying Chicago's 1996 record of 10 straight home wins. That's why failing to get home court through the playoffs could be costly for the Thunder if it does indeed meet the Heat. In the NBA Finals, the seven-game series format changes to 2-3-2, and it's extremely difficult in an even matchup to win three straight, even at home. In fact, since the Finals series changed to its current format in 1985, only five teams have won all three middle games. And only two of those teams were the host teams.

Thunder-Heat: The matchups