NBA Finals Preview Thunder Vs. Heat
Tuesday, June 12, 2012 at 12:15 PM
The fans got what they wanted, an NBA Finals of the Western Conference Champion Oklahoma City Thunder
and the Eastern Conference Champion Miami Heat.
The young, upstart Thunder against the veteran Heat. The two players widely considered the top two players in the NBA in Kevin Durant
and LeBron James
squaring off for bragging rights.
The two best teams in the NBA will battle in the Best of Seven game series beginning Tuesday night in Oklahoma City at the nuthouse known as the Chesapeake Energy Arena. The atmosphere at an OKC home game is more like a college game and is the best home court advantage in the NBA.
The schedule in the Finals differs from the other playoff series as it is a 2-3-2 format rather than 2-2-1-1-1. This format can sometimes put the team with home court advantage at a disadvantage if they lose one of the first two games at home. A split means that the team with the middle three home games can take the title if they hold serve at home and never have to go back on the road.
The Thunder advanced to the Finals through a Western Conference gauntlet. They swept the defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks in four games. The perennial power Los Angeles Lakers fell in five games and the Western conference favorite San Antonio Spurs toppled in six games following an 0-2 hole.
After the second game of the series, the Spurs had won their 20th consecutive game and were heavily favored to advance to the Finals. Thunder coach Scott Brooks
made adjustments including putting Thabo Sefolosha, a superior defensive player on Tony Parker. The adjustments worked as the home crowd willed their adored Thunder to victory in the series.
The Miami Heat advanced through the Eastern Conference playoffs by defeating the New York Knicks in five games before a six game series vs. the Indiana Pacers. Heat power forward Chris Bosh
suffered an abdominal strain in game two of the Pacers series and sat out until game five of the Celtics series.
The absence of Bosh forced James and Dwyane Wade
to shoulder even more of the scoring burden than normal. The Heat were down 2-1 to the Pacers and down at halftime in game four on the road in Indianapolis before James and Wade took over the series and willed the Heat to victory. An epic seven game victory over the Celtics made the NBA front office ecstatic as they got the series everyone wanted.
The Thunder is a team that relies on youthful legs, superior athleticism, and tremendous length. Durant, the fourth year forward out of Texas is the unquestioned leader of the team and is mentioned in the same breath as LeBron James as the best player in the NBA. Durant is a brilliant offensive player and is the three time NBA scoring champion.
The point guard is Russell Westbrook
out of UCLA. Westbrook can take over games on the offensive end with his drives to the rim and a usually deadly jumper, however, Westbrook has games where he gets out of control and tries to do too much and can be a liability on the floor.
starts at shooting guard but is a defensive specialist. Serge Ibaka
is a 6’10” shot blocking athletic menace at power forward while supreme low post defender Kendrick Perkins
is the Thunder starting center. The Thunder bench features NBA Sixth Man of the Year James Harden
the bearded wonder. Harden brings back memories of the Detroit Pistons’ Vinnie Johnson, The Microwave and instant offense off the bench.
, the elder statesman and holder of five championship rings from his years with the Lakers brings leadership and outside shooting off the bench. Nick Collison
, the longtime Sonic and Thunder player and former Kansas Jayhawk is the primary low post presence off the bench. Collison does all the dirty work like rebounding, defense, and diving on the floor for loose balls.
The Miami Heat is led by the Big Three of James, Wade, and Bosh. Ever since LeBron made “The Decision” to take his talents to South Beach, the pressure has been squarely on the shoulders of the Heat and specifically the Big Three to bring multiple NBA titles to Miami. Coach Erik Spoelstra
is frequently criticized after every Heat loss and is often accused of being outcoached.
Spoelstra is burdened with the pressure of Championship or bust. LeBron is the best all-around player in the game and can take over a game on both ends of the floor. He had a game for the ages in game six of the Celtics series. With the Heat down three games to two, James took over and scored 45 points on 73% shooting to go with fifteen boards. If James plays like that in the Finals, it will be extremely difficult for the thunder to win.
Wade has been an enigma in the playoffs. He has struggled at times taking bad shots and looking like a bad Robin to James’ Batman. At other times he’s been a brilliant compliment to James. The good Wade will be necessary to beat the Thunder. Bosh is the missing element to Heat success. Bosh gives the Heat an inside presence as well as deadly shooting from the perimeter. A healthy Bosh allows the Heat to spread the floor and opens up driving lanes for James and Wade.
has been a clutch shooter in the playoffs from the point guard position. Shane Battier
has given the Heat some outside shooting and effective defense from the other forward spot. The Heat bench is a weak link as Mike Miller
has been hobbled and Norris Cole
has at times played like a rookie at point guard. Joel Anthony
and Rony Turiaf
are role players in the low post.
The LeBron James-Kevin Durant matchup will potentially make this an epic series. Durant, the best offensive player in the League will be matched up against James, the best defensive player. Will the energy that James expends on defense affect his offense? Will the Thunder have another answer if Durant is shut down?
Keys to Victory-Thunder
• Must use their length and athleticism in a full court game
• Westbrook and Harden must play under control
• Bench play must be superior to the Heat
• Home crowd must will them to victory
• Must have an answer if James controls Durant
Keys to Victory-Heat
• Big Three cannot be Big One, Wade and Bosh need to contribute significantly
• LeBron needs to take over at critical times and want to take the big shot
• Bench must give solid contributions
• Need to steal a victory in the first two games of the series
Thunder in seven games in one of the all-time classic NBA Finals.