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Thunder Thumps Miami Behind Stingy Defensive Performance

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OKLAHOMA CITY -

The knowledge Kevin Durant won't be coming to rescue Oklahoma City this season seems to have breathed a bit of life into the Thunder. There's no longer a cloud of uncertainty hanging over everyone's head and rather than looking at what OKC doesn't have, we can all focus on what the Thunder does have.

And what Oklahoma City has is still a darn fine roster.

The Thunder had six players in double figures and dominated the paint in a 93-75 thumping of Miami at The Peake on Sunday.

An active Durant and Serge Ibaka would make the Thunder's roster the best in the league, but even without those two, there's still a bevy of talent, thanks to trades made throughout the season. And it's on this remaining talent the Thunder have to rely the rest of the way.

This version of the Thunder, centered around Russell Westbrook, a dominant big man and some terrific supporting pieces, is a bit strange to look at, but it's a group that's playing with absolutely nothing to lose. The odds are stacked against them, especially if they make the playoffs and face Golden State, and it seems the underdog role has been embraced in the Thunder locker room.

Sunday, after nearly a month of horrendous defensive performances, OKC put the screws to the Heat and held Miami to 39.5 percent shooting while forcing 18 turnovers. The Thunder also dominated on the glass once again, outrebounding the Heat, 52-40 while picking up 22 offensive rebounds.

It was another terrific showing for the thinned out Thunder front line, playing without Ibaka and Nick Collison. Enes Kanter had his fifth straight double-double of 27 points and 12 rebounds. Steven Adams had 10 points and 10 rebounds and Mitch McGary nearly had a double-double of his own with 14 points and eight rebounds off the bench.

Oh, and Westbrook had 10 rebounds of his own to get his 10th triple-double of the season. Westbrook only scored 12 points, but had 17 assists which tied a career-high.

Unfortunately, the Thunder once again couldn't go a whole game without someone getting injured. This time, it was Andre Roberson who sprained his left ankle just two minutes into the game. He left and didn't return. It's the same foot that caused him to miss eight games earlier this season.

The 93-point total snapped the Thunder's 22-game streak of scoring at least 100 points, but that seemed completely trivial considering the Thunder's defensive performance.

Granted, Miami isn't exactly well-equipped to take advantage of Oklahoma City's defensive shortcomings. Kanter was able to check aging Udonis Haslem and Dwyane Wade is just a shell of his former explosive self, too slow to blow by people in pick-and-roll situations.

But the performance was encouraging, nonetheless. It showed the Thunder can in fact play good defense and use it to turn an ordinary game into a rout.

Oklahoma City doesn't have the best player in the world. It doesn't have Ibaka. But what the Thunder does have is a very good and very driven roster. You need more than drive to win in the NBA; everyone has that. But for now, OKC has a massive chip on its shoulder and its out to prove the doubters wrong.

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