The story lines and anticipation of the NBA Finals is going to be hyped up in order to draw good ratings, but I don’t think it needs to be hyped up. I think that with all the superstars on both teams, people will tune in to see who will win the NBA Championship. For the first time in the playoffs this year, the Miami Heat have more years of experience compared to the younger Oklahoma City Thunder team, but some are calling the Heat slight underdogs in this Finals matchup. Let’s examine both teams and see if this holds any truth or not.
Thunder offense vs. Heat Defense- both teams love the transition offense so it’ll be important for both teams’ transition defense to be ready for a little run and gun offense. But from an defensive angle, the Heat will have their hands full with the Thunder’s offensive skills. Thabo Sefolosha made some big shots in the conference finals against the Spurs by hitting some big shots and playing some great defense (more on that in a bit). But what Miami will be preparing for is how will they contain the three time scoring champion Kevin Durant, Russel Westbrook, and James Harden coming off of the bench. Unfortunately, they may not be able to contain all three of their players, so their best bet is to limit the ball for one player, forcing the other players on the floor to step up and make some shots. What will be critical for the Thunder is the veteran leadership of Derrick Fisher. While Westbrook will be on the bench resting, Fisher will be taking the reigns of the team and either making the great passes for others to get points on the board or he may sink a few shots of his own. What I want to see is how will the Thunder unplug the lane for the players who want to drive the lane. With Chris Bosh back to what appears to be full strength, easy drive in lay ups or shots will be difficult. The post-up play by Perkins and Ibaka should open up the lane as well as the perimeter for shooters to pick between lay ups or three pointers.
Heat Offense vs. Thunder defense- With Chris Bosh back in the lineup, this should solidify their starting lineup, which was constantly changing due to his ab injury a month ago. His presence on the floor should allow more options for Mario Chalmers to decide who should get the ball between the big 3. Based on the series against Boston, it is apparent that LeBron James has the potential to go off for 30+ points a game. But what everyone will be looking at is will Dwayne Wade make a big enough impact as James, and who else on the starting line up step up to take the pressure away from LeBron James, who is trying to make he doesn’t go 0-3 in the NBA Finals in his quest for his first ring. Bosh’s points in the paint will have t be earned with Ibaka and Perkins being the backbone of the Thunder defense.
Advantage- Miami, but slight edge in this one.
Bench- Both team’s bench players are talented and have the ability to make major contributions to the game, but what is key to this one is consistency. The bench play of the Thunder has been both consistent and reliable in giving the starters rest as well as playing great on both sides of the floor. Miami’s Mike Miller is a perimeter threat, but my concern for him is that he barely able to get up and down the floor due to his ankle and back injuries. He may be a liability if he can not keep up with the pace of play. The rest of the Heat’s bench is inconsistent. If they become more consistent, this could become an interesting series.
Coaching- I’m not going to give this one much thought. Scott Brooks, winner of NBA coach of the year a few years back, knows how to prepare and make in game adjustments for the Thunder and will be a bigger impact in this series.
Prediction- In a series where everyone is calling it “LeBron vs Durant” “All weather Finals matchup” ” young rising superstars vs. super stars”, I’m going to call it “Humble stars playing team basketball vs. overhyped superstars with absurd expectations”. I will also call this a “LeBron vs. Kevin Durant (the anti-Lebron)”; if you want to know why I say this, please refer to my previous post. Call it whatever you want to, what this comes down to is who will be better down the stretch of the game. The home court advantage for the Thunder is huge for them and will probably help them get to a 2-0 lead, putting pressure on Miami to get back into the series. This series can go the full 7 games, but I’m going to say that this will end in 6 games with Kevin Durant getting his first championship before LeBron does. And no one will mention the fact that fisher will earn his 6th ring.
Thunder in 6 games.