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Miami Hosts OKC in Finals Rematch

Gold medal-winning teammates Kevin Durant and LeBron James will renew their rivalry on Christmas Day as Oklahoma City travels to Miami for a rematch of last year's NBA Finals.

Amidst the festivities of Christmas Day, Oklahoma City makes the journey to South Beach to take on Miami in a rematch of last season’s NBA Finals.

The eagerly-anticipated showdown will mark the first time the two sides have met since the Heat lifted the Larry O’Brien trophy on Jun. 21, defeating the Thunder 121-106 in Game 5, securing a 4-1 series win.

Oklahoma City (21-5, 7-3 road) arrives in Florida with the best record in the league. Two of the team’s five losses came in the first three games of the season, giving Scott Brooks’ side an even more impressive 20-3 record since. A 12-game winning streak was snapped on Thursday night in a 99-93 loss to Minnesota, but the Thunder is, to put it simply, rolling.

Miami (18-6, 13-2 home) enters the game with the Eastern Conference’s best record, having seen New York slip-up over recent games.

Bar a slip-up against Washington on Dec. 4, each of the Heat’s losses has come against quality opposition, but that will be no consolation for Eric Spoelstra’s side as it looks to repeat its championship run of last season.

The Heat is unbeaten in its previous four games, and six of the last seven.

Oklahoma City leads the league in scoring this season, averaging 105.1 points per game. The team’s field goal percentage (.481) and three-point field goal percentage (.402) both rank second in the league.

Miami isn’t far behind in scoring, averaging 103.4 points per game (4th). The Heat however is the best shooting team in the league, with a .497 field goal percentage (1st) and .409 three-point field goal percentage (1st).

Defensively, Oklahoma City has limited its opponents to .425 shooting, second in the league, while Miami ranks in the top 10 in the same category (.438). The Thunder leads the league in opponents’ rebounds, limiting teams to 39.5 per game. Again, Miami ranks in the top ten in that category.

The biggest weakness for Scott Brooks’ side has been turnovers. The Thunder averages 15.8 turnovers per game. Only the Lakers and Houston average more. Miami gives up the ball just 14.2 times per game, good enough for sixth in the league.

Miami’s biggest weakness has been rebounding the ball. The Heat ranks 29th in the league in that category, averaging just 38.7 per game. However, that statistic is somewhat warped by those impressive shooting statistics.

Historically, the Oklahoma City franchise has had the Heat’s number. Since Miami joined the NBA in 1989, the Sonics/Thunder has recorded a 30-18 all-time regular season record against the Heat. However, since the move from Seattle to Oklahoma City, the record has been an even 4-4. Miami, of course, has the big advantage of having defeated the Thunder in the Finals.

The previous two seasons have seen the sides split the season series, with the home side winning out last year and the road side doing likewise in 2010-11. The Thunder swept the series in 2009-10, whilst the Heat did the same in 2008-09.

Of course, both of these sides have different appearances to those that met in June. The Thunder are without Sixth Man of the Year winner, James Harden, who was traded to Houston ahead of the season. His replacement, Kevin Martin, is listed as day-to-day heading into play this week.

The Heat retooled in the offseason, adding Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis to the James-Wade-Bosh core, both pieces that make the team that much stronger than the one we saw competing last year. Whether that strength translates to another title remains to be seen.

Not only will bragging rights be on the line in this one, both team’s odds on the NBA Futures are likely to be impacted by the result. Miami has been favorites to repeat as champions for the entire season, but a win for the Thunder could see that change.

The Heat and Thunder will meet again on Feb. 14, 2013, at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Okla.

Elsewhere on Christmas day, Brooklyn hosts Boston (12 PM ET), New York visits the Los Angeles Lakers (3 PM ET), Chicago welcomes Houston (8 PM ET), and Denver challenges the Los Angeles Clippers (10:30 PM ET).

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