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Heat at Thunder: What bettors need to know

Miami Heat at Oklahoma City Thunder (-5, 204)

The Oklahoma City Thunder were unable to slow down LeBron James and the Miami Heat in last season's NBA Finals. The task doesn't figure to be any easier when the Thunder host a red-hot James and the streaking Heat on Thursday in the last game for both teams before the All-Star break.

James is on a six-game roll that has never been seen before in NBA annals, a run that has triggered Miami's six-game winning streak. Oklahoma City will be banking on the home-court edge as it seeks to become the second team to reach 40 victories.

James is in uncharted territory during a spectacular stretch that has seen the reigning MVP become the only player in league history to score at least 30 points and shoot 60 percent in six consecutive games. Oklahoma City is coming off a lopsided loss at Utah that featured the first flagrant foul of superstar Kevin Durant's career.

Although the Thunder have lost five in a row to Miami, they own the second-best overall and home record (23-3) in the NBA and have won seven straight at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

The Heat are underdogs for just the third time this season. Miami has won and covered in those two previous games as a pup (at Lakers, at Nuggets). Last season, the Heat were underdogs in only four games (two of those coming at the end of the schedule with starters resting) and lost SU and ATS in all four.

Since the formation of the “Big Three”, Miami has been an underdog 17 times, posting an 8-9 SU mark and an 8-8-1 ATS record in those games. The Heat have lost those eight games by an average margin of 14.47 points and have scored more than 100 points just once in those defeats while giving up 100 or more in six of those eight losses.

Outside of resting players in the final games of the schedule, the Heat have never been more than 4-point underdogs in a game that mattered (+4 at Orlando 11/24/10, lost 104-95).

TV: 8 p.m. ET, TNT

ABOUT THE HEAT (35-14, 25-24-0 ATS): James and Miami kept their respective streaks alive by pulling away in the final minutes to beat Portland on Tuesday for the 1,000th win in franchise history. James finished 11 of 15, marking the third time he has shot over 73 percent during the amazing six-game run. "I'm at a loss for words," James said. "Like I say over and over, I know the history of the game. I know how many unbelievable players who came through the ranks. ... And for me to be in the record books by myself with such a stat - any stat - it's big-time."

ABOUT THE THUNDER (39-13, 31-19-2 ATS): Prior to getting ambushed by the Jazz, Oklahoma City was on an impressive roll, winning four straight games by an average of 25.3 points. Durant, one of the few players capable of matching James' offensive exploits, scored 33 points in the loss. The three-time scoring champion's numbers have been down due to limited minutes over the past four games, but he had a head-spinning eight-game stretch of his own last month. During that span, Durant scored 30 points in seven of eight games, including outbursts of 52, 42 and 41 points.

TRENDS:

* Heat are 5-0 ATS in the last five meetings.
* Favorite is 4-0 ATS in the last four meetings.
* Home team is 4-0 ATS in the last four meetings.
* Over is 8-2-1 in the last 11 meetings in Oklahoma City.

BUZZER BEATERS:


1. James scored 29 points to lift the Heat to a 103-97 home win over the Thunder on Christmas Day.

2. Oklahoma is a league-best 11-1 following a loss this season.

3. Miami is only 12-11 away from home.

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