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Heat draw line on ‘getting bullied,’ visit Thunder

It has been an uneven start for the Miami Heat this season. After reaching the Eastern Conference Finals last season, the Heat have yet to make it over .500. Miami started a four-game trip with an 87-82 win over Indiana on Monday night, drawing back to within two games of the break-even point.

“I think that we just kind of wanted to start (the road trip) as drawing a line in the sand,” the Heat’s Caleb Martin said. “At some point, you got to stand your ground. I feel like we’re typically the bullies, and I feel like the last couple of weeks, we’ve been the ones getting bullied. So this is the first night to be able to take a stand in order to get things back on track and get things moving in the right direction.”

Miami will look to continue building momentum when it continues the trip Wednesday night against the Thunder in Oklahoma City. The three opponents remaining on the trip — the Thunder, Rockets and Spurs — have the three worst records in the Western Conference.

“They’re winnable games for us,” Miami guard Tyler Herro said. “We know what we’re capable of, and I think just going out there and putting a consistent effort of great basketball, whether shots are going in or not. Just continuing to play the right way and try to impact winning as much as each player can. It’s a big trip for us.”

Miami is just 4-9 on the road this season after going 24-17 away from home a season ago when posting the best regular-season record in the Eastern Conference. “I think last year, our superpower was how connected we were,” Miami’s Udonis Haslem said. “In games where teams might have had a little bit more of a talent advantage or whatever the situation was, our connection was what was able to get us through. Playing for one another, sacrificing for one another.

“So getting back to that pure, authentic connection, where you make the plays for each other without even thinking about it and it’s just happening — that’s something that you’ve got to build.” Wednesday’s game will be the first of two meetings between the Heat and Thunder this season. Miami has swept the series in each of the past two seasons. The Thunder haven’t played at home since Nov. 30 and have played seven of their last eight on the road.

After winning the first two games of a season-long five-game road trip, Oklahoma City has lost its past three games heading into a season-long seven-game homestand. One of the bright spots recently for the Thunder has been the play of rookie guard Jalen Williams.

In Monday’s 121-114 loss to Dallas, Williams played a season-high 38 minutes, going 8 of 13 from the floor while scoring 17 points. “I just think fundamentally, defensively, things are slowing down for him,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. “He had some pretty loud mistakes early in the year that he’s really cleaned up. And then offensively, I just think he continues to play in a good rhythm.”

–Field Level Media


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