The Oklahoma City Thunder couldn’t handle the heat Miami brought to Chesapeake Energy Arena as the Thunder fell 116-107 on Monday night picking up a third straight loss and giving Dwayne Wade a 25-point performance for his final appearance in OKC .
The Thunder entered tonight’t matchup missing a major piece of their dynamic; the leadership of Russell Westbrook. Westbrook was suspended from Monday night’s game after picking up his 16th technical foul of the season during Saturday’s loss to the Warriors banning him from even sitting on the bench.
This greatly allowed players like Jerami Grant, Paul George, and Dennis Schröder, who slid into the starting guard spot with the absence of Russ, ample opportunity to step up their leadership and create a pace for the Thunder to be successful. Though the game starting on a 13-0 run in favor of OKC, this pace would not last for much longer.
The Heat came back firing finishing the first quarter on a 27-12 run and never looked back from there. The Heat’s bench outscored OKC’s bench 67-10 with players like Goran Dragić and Dwayne Wade combining for 51 total points, and the Thunder couldn’t hang on as the Heat powered through the entirety of the game giving the Thunder problems as they drop another game in front of their home crowd.
Paul George led the Thunder with 31 points on 9-18 shooting, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks, and 2 steals. He had a couple of timely 3’s, as well as drawing crucial fouls allowing him to shoot 9-9 from the charity stripe.
Dennis Schröder stepped into the role of starting guard where he dropped 20 points and dished out 6 assists. Schröder also spoke on the power of staying together as a team in his postgame presser as the Thunder look forward to breaking this losing streak with a home matchup against the Raptors on Wednesday.
“We just have to keep working,” Schröder said. “Every game, we try to get better as a team and play together. Especially through tough stretches like we’re going through now, we have to stay together as a team.”
Deserving of praise is Jerami Grant who dropped a career-high 27 points shooting 63 percent from the floor (10-16), and served as a powerhouse for the Thunder staying consistent with his shooting and continually improving when called upon.
A big story coming from this Thunder loss is Dwayne Wade playing his final game in Chesapeake Energy Arena as he nears the end of his supposed final season in the league after sixteen years. Wade dropped 25 points on 10-17 shooting and had nothing but praises for the OKC crowd following the Heat’s win.
“The game of basketball has been great to me,” Wade said. “I think this year everyone has shown me appreciation with whatever I brought to this game. We played in the Finals here [Oklahoma City], and it wasn’t in a real disrespectful way. They [Thunder] have great fans, I will say that.”
With 11 games left in the regular season, the Thunder drop to the 6 seed in the Western Conference standings and have the tiebreaker with the San Antonio Spurs who defeated the No. 1 seed Warriors on Monday night 111-105. OKC sits on a 42-29 record as the team prepares to host the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night in Chesapeake.
The Thunder and Raptors will tipoff at 8:30 p.m., and the Thunder will honor Nick Collison with the retirement of his jersey marking this as the first jersey the Thunder have retired.
Watch below for Thunder locker room reactions following Monday night’s loss to the Heat, including postgame pressers from Paul George, Dennis Schröder, and Terrance Ferguson, as well as quotes from Dwayne Wade following his final appearance in OKC.
Dwayne Wade Postgame Presser: