By Michael Kinney
Throughout the 2022-23 season, Oklahoma City has found itself falling into the trap of falling behind big early and making late runs to make the game interesting. Sometimes they win this way and sometimes they lose.
The Thunder were in the same trap Wednesday night when they host the Miami Heat. After falling behind by 21 points, Oklahoma City rallied to take a fourth-quarter lead.
However, it was the veteran Heat who made the plays on both ends down the stretch to pull out the 110-108 victory at the Paycom Center.
“I feel like a broken record. We gave ourselves a very good chance to win that game tonight,” Thunder guard Josh Giddey said. “We just have to work on closing them out. We will get better. We’ll learn from it.”
Late in the fourth quarter, Oklahoma City held a 106-101 advantage. However, led by Tyler Herro and Victor Oladipo, Miami came back and took a 108-106 lead with a minute on the clock.
After Miami’s Kyle Lowry missed a long shot, Oklahoma City grabbed the rebound and got the ball to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. He drove into the lane and was fouled. After knocking down both free throws the game tied at 108-108 with just 25 seconds left in the quarter.
It was Miami’s turn to go to their go-to guy. With no Jimmy Butler in the lineup, all the focus on was Herro. He let the clock run down before draining a jumper from just inside the 3-point line to give the Heat a two-point lead.
“I got to my spot,” Herro said. “Coach and Kyle wanted me to get the ball at the top. They wanted me to shoot as late as I could. I tried to get the shot clock down and I was able to get to my spot and I knocked it down.”
With just 4.9 seconds left, the Thunder once again went to Gilgeous-Alexander, who has been money in late-game situations for OKC. But this time his mid-range shot was deflected.
However, Giddy snatched the rebound and took the ball back up at the rim. His shot was also off the mark and the Heat walked away with the victory.
“Our first play was going to go to Shai, but I thought I found Lu (Dort) on the back cut. Tried to hit him. We draw up a new play and it’s obviously going to Shai,” Giddey said. “They went into a zone so it kind of off set it a little bit. But we got him the ball. You trust a player like that with the ball in his hands. He took a pretty tough shot. They got a piece of it. I hit the boards and tried to make a play. But we have to do a better job of not letting ourselves get in that situation.”
Oklahoma City had five players score in double figures. Gilgeous-Alexander led the way with 27 points on 10 of 20 shooting. He also collected eight rebounds, seven assists and five turnovers.
Giddey added 19 points, 11 boards and seven assists. Dort threw in 18 points and shot 4 of 7 from behind the arc.
Herro paced the Heat with a regular season career-high 35 points. He also hit a career-high 9 of his 17 shots from 3-point range.
As a team, the Heat hit 24 shots from behind the arc, which set a new franchise record.
“It feels good,” Herro said. “But most importantly it feels good to get the win. We were trying to win our first two consecutive games on the road this year. We got that done. We were able to get the win and we’re excited about it.”
Miami came into Oklahoma City with star guard Jimmy Butler in street clothes. Despite playing two nights before in a win against Indiana, Butler sat out on his only trip to Oklahoma City this season. He was listed on the injury report as “injury management.”
That didn’t seem to slow down the Heat. After ending the first quarter tied at 31-31, Miami started the second quarter on a 20-2 run to push their advantage to 51-33.
Herro did most of the damage as he found his range from behind the arc and wasn’t bashful about putting up shots.
Led by Gilgeous-Alexander and Dort, the Thunder clawed their way back into the game and cut the lead down to 64-52 by halftime.
“We tightened up on the defense,” Giddy said. “When they went into that zone, we had no answer for it. We kind of settled for three-balls and they weren’t falling. Then they went on a big run. We called a timeout and made a few adjustments.”
While the Thunder weren’t on fire from 3-point range (9-of-24), they were able to have their way in the paint. They ended the night with a 60 to 20 scoring advantage in the paint.
With 3:42 left in the third quarter, Oklahoma City retook the lead at 78-77. However, another Herro 3-pointer gave it right back to Miami.
The Heat held an 86-84 lead heading into the fourth quarter. But the Thunder rolled off a quick 9-2 run and seemed to have worn down the Heat to start the fourth with Gilgeous-Alexander on the bench.
Oklahoma City (11-17), who have now lost three straight games, will be back in action this weekend with a pair of back-to-back home games. Friday they will host the Minnesota Timberwolves and Saturday the Memphis Grizzlies. Both games are scheduled to start at 7 p.m.
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