In the wake of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s trade of Paul George in the offseason, the Thunder and Miami Heat looked like potential trade partners on multiple occasions.
First, Miami was one potential landing spot for Russell Westbrook.
Instead, Oklahoma City wound up trading the superstar point guard to the Houston Rockets for a package that included veteran Chris Paul.
Then the Heat made the most sense as a trade partner when the Thunder reportedly wanted to trade Paul.
Nothing ever materialized on that end, however, and now Paul will be playing for Oklahoma City when the Thunder host the Heat on Friday night.
Paul has been a strong presence for the Thunder, averaging 16.5 points and 6.5 assists. His 2.1 turnovers per game currently matches his career-low mark set eight seasons ago.
Nonetheless, the Thunder have dropped two of their last three.
In both losses — first to the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday and then Wednesday to Toronto — Oklahoma City fell behind big early before scraping its way back into the game before ultimately falling short.
“We can’t wait that long to impose our will,” Paul told reporters recently.
The Thunder have made several big comebacks this season but avoiding flat starts is now a priority for all of Billy Donovan’s team.
“We know if there’s time on the clock, there’s nothing us as a group is not capable of,” guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander said. “It’s been a little bit of us in the past to get down a little bit — a lot actually — to start games. We’ve just got to figure out a way to not let that happen, and put together a full four quarters.”
While the Heat are 28-12 and second in the Eastern Conference, they have struggled away from home.
The Heat are just 10-11 on the road, scoring 7.5 points per game fewer away from AmericanAirlines Arena.
“We definitely have to carry this momentum into the road games,” center Bam Adebayo told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “We’re going into other people’s gyms, and we can’t have the same game that we play at home. We’ve got to have a better game, because we’re away.
“Rims look different, atmosphere is different, so just got to go out there and bring more of an edge on the road than we have recently.”
The meeting will be the first of the season between the teams. Oklahoma City and Miami split their two games last season.
Oklahoma City could be without both of its primary big men.
Starting center Steven Adams suffered a right knee contusion in Wednesday’s loss and will be re-evaluated before the game to determine his status.
Adams’ backup, Nerlens Noel, has missed the last six games with a left ankle sprain.
The Heat could be without rookie guard Tyler Herro, who suffered a left knee bruise in Tuesday’s practice and missed Wednesday’s game.
Heat forward Justise Winslow’s status is also unclear. Winslow returned Jan. 8 after missing 15 games with a bone bruise in his back but has missed the last three games with recurrent back issues.
–Field Level Media