Hopefully the TNT double-header this week will not feature the same blowouts as last week, but even with that being said, the amount of injuries between all four teams is pretty staggering. This could be a sloppy set of games.
First, the Oklahoma City Thunder (18-22) will head to Miami to take on the Heat (21-20). Then, the Phoenix Suns (20-21) will look to overcome the Golden State Warriors (20-20) at home in San Francisco with a high likelihood of Stephen Curry returning to action.
With Curry possibly returning against the Suns and the Thunder looking to grab another win against the banged up Heat, the TNT double-header should be interesting this week.
Let’s dive into each game.
Oklahoma City Thunder vs Miami Heat
Thursday, 1/5 at 5:30pm MST on TNT in Miami
We should start with just how banged up the Heat are entering their home game against the Thunder.
Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, Kyle Lowry, Caleb Martin, Nikola Jovic, Duncan Robinson, and Omer Yurtseven are all out for some injury or another. Udonis Haslem, who might actually need to log minutes against the Thunder, is questionable. Dewayne Dedmon and Gabe Vincent are both probable.
That is...a lot. It is also coming at a time with Miami needs to grab wins where they can to hopefully avoid the play-in tournament in the Eastern Conference. The Heat are 21-20 and have hold of the eight seed in the East. They sit three games away from the sixth seed which save them from the play-in tournament, but they also sit three games away from the 11th seed with no play-in tournament and no shot at the postseason. Every game is critical for the Heat right now.
The Thunder, on the other hand, are enjoying a mildly successful season considering they were still in draft pick acquisition mode as recently as the 2022 NBA Draft. Despite that, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has led the Thunder to an 18-22 season. No, it is not spectacular, but they are a competitive team for the first time in a few years. They have a true star in Gilgeous-Alexander and a to of interesting and talented young players which has allowed them to enjoy more winning than expected. When considering they had a total of 24 wins all of last season and the Thunder sit at 18 wins right now at just about the halfway point of the season, it has been quite the improvement in Oklahoma City.
The Thunder are just two losses outside of the play-in tournament. They have a realistic chance of fighting their way into a shot at a playoff berth and, considering how many picks they own from other teams, they might just see how far they can get this season and not tank for better lottery odds. Why couldn't the Thunder catch a team like the Portland Trail Blazers, Minnesota Timberwolves, or the brutally-injured Suns? That is not a hopeless endeavor by any means.
- The Heat, despite their injuries, are listed as two-point favorites at DraftKings Sportsbook; likely just because the game is in Miami. With the injuries as bad as they are the good value might be taking the Thunder as two-point underdogs.
- Shai-Gilgeous Alexander is a worthy favorite to win Most Improved Player this season. He is currently -125 to win the award at DraftKings Sportsbook which seems insane considering how volatile the voting on such an honor can be. Still, Gilgeous-Alexander has been out of his mind all season long and is more than deserving even if the value is not great for bettors.
Phoenix Suns vs Golden State Warriors
Thursday, 1/5 at 8pm MST on TNT in San Fransisco
The Warriors are going to very likely receive a boost they desperately need to get back on track when they take on the Suns.
After being out since December 16th and missing the last 11 games with a left shoulder injury, Steph Curry has been upgraded to questionable heading into the Warriors home game at Chase Center against the struggling Suns, who will be without both of their star guards in Devin Booker and Chris Paul and carrying in a six-game losing streak.
Saying Curry is essential to the Warriors hopes this season is the most reductive statement that could be made when analyzing the NBA, but it still is important to mention. When Curry is on the floor for the Warriors this year, the have an offensive rating of 118.9 which would be the best in basketball if stretched out across the season. Their defensive rating is 111.9 with Curry which would be which would be 11th in the league. Despite their struggles early in the season with Curry going 14-12 in the 26 games he played, the Warriors had a net rating of +7 with Curry on the floor which would lead all of basketball. Curry makes the Warriors elite in enough ways to make them formidable and a terrifying opponent for any Western Conference playoff team, but they need to start winning with regularity to avoid the play-in tournament.
The Suns are currently on the opposite end of the spectrum. Instead of having hope on the horizon, they are watching their season slip away amidst a plethora of injuries. With Booker and Paul out, the Suns have little chance of generating good offense in the half court. To make matters worse, they will be without Cam Payne and Cam Johnson against the Warriors while Deandre Ayton, Torrey Craig, and Landry Shamet are all listed as questionable.
They have lost six-straight games, their schedule is about to get about as difficult as possible over their next nine games, and it does not appear either of Booker or Paul are set to return in time to save them. At 20-21 heading into their battle with Golden State, how far are the Suns going to fall? They sit just three losses away from the 12th seed in the Western Conference and, unless their roster as is can pull them out of this horrid stretch, the future of the season looks grim.
- The Warriors, with Curry likely to return at home against a struggling Suns group are 12-point favorites at DraftKings Sportsbook which feels like a lot, but with the boost of Curry returning and with how good Golden State is at home, trusting this Suns team to cover 12 points feels unlikely.
- While the point total being set at 229.5 by DraftKings Sportsbook might seem about right for a Warriors team that can score at will, that could be a bit high because of just how defunct the Suns are without Booker and Paul. The under looks pretty good here.