ORLANDO, Florida- The stage is set for the Oklahoma City Thunder to face the Houston Rockets in the first round of the 2020 NBA Playoffs after an exciting 116-115 over the Miami Heat on Wednesday night.
In a wild chain of events capped off by a 3-point game-winning shot from Mike Muscala and 5.2 seconds left on the clock, the Thunder erased a 22-point deficit to clinch the fourth seed in the West.
With a closing lineup of Muscala, Abdel Nader, Terrance Ferguson, Darius Bazley and Devon Hall, accolades go to the bench and Billy Donovan for finding confidence in his second unit to take an exhilarating win.
“I think those guys being thrown into those situations will be positive for them,”Billy Donovan said following the game. “A lot of those second unit guys did a nice job, and I think they learned a lot from the first half.”
The Heat outscored the Thunder 42-29 in the first quarter marking this as the most points the Thunder gave up in a first quarter this season.
Miami quite literally brought the heat from behind the arc with players like Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro knocking down shots from deep and pulling Miami ahead quickly. The Heat shot 6-10 from 3 after one quarter.
The Thunder, however, stepped it up on perimeter disrupting the Heat’s 3-point shot forcing them to finish 14-42, 33 percent, from downtown.
“We fouled 3-point shooters too often,” Donovan said. “We did a much better job in the third and fourth quarter contesting without fouling. That was a major difference in the game.”
With players like Steven Adams, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari back in the lineup after sitting Monday’s loss against the Suns out, the Thunder came face-to-face with injury once again as Lu Dort collided with Jae Crowder in the first quarter causing him to leave the court and not return for the remainder of the game.
Billy Donovan commented after the game that Dort will be further evaluated with answers about the severity of his knee injury as early as tomorrow.
“We’re just trying to get through these games as healthy as possible,” Chris Paul said. “Unfortunately, we lost Lu Dort today, which is huge, but we’re going to try and get him back.”
Paul goes on to say the seeding games haven’t meant as much to the team as fans may think because they’re been missing paramount pieces to their lineup with guys facing injury concerns and Sixth Man of the Year candidate Dennis Schröder absent for the birth of his second child.
“We hope we have Dennis back,” Paul said. “That’s a big part of our team, and these games have just been us trying to stay healthy.”
Despite the Thunder facing obstacles along the way, Muscala hitting two vital 3’s in the last seconds of the game elevated the Thunder to the fourth seed and set the stage for OKC to compete against former Thunder players James Harden and Russell Westbrook in round one of the playoffs.
Darius Bazley: 21 pts, 9 reb, 4 ast
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: 18 pts, 1 reb, 1 ast
Danilo Gallinari: 14 pts, 2 reb
Abdel Nader: 13 pts, 3 reb, 1 ast
Mike Muscala: 6 pts, 5 reb, 1 ast
Thunder shot 44 percent from the floor (39-89), 38 percent from 3 (16-42).
The Thunder play its final seeding game against the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday, Aug. 14, at 6:30 p.m. ET (5:30 p.m. CT).