Here we are. For a lot of people, including myself, this is exactly where we thought we’d be.
The Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The two best, most exciting and most talented teams in the basketball appropriately meet on the grandest stage.
The Thunder’s journey here has been less bumpy than the Heat’s, which can be viewed as both a positive and a negative for both.
Oklahoma City hold home court advantage, something that has become increasingly significant for them given the speaker breaking, hold your hands over your ears volume of their building.
The Finals layout of 2-3-2 certainly favours the Thunder, as should they win both the first two games, it will be a huge ask for Miami to win three straight at home, but certainly still achievable. Should OKC drop one of the first 2 games that gives Miami an opportunity to win the championship at home.
But that is all largely irrelevant at the moment.
Heading into the playoffs, I believed the Thunder would face the Heat in the Finals, I also believed they posed the greatest threat. You may say ‘well obviously if you think they’ll make the Finals that’d make them the greatest threat’, well that aside, I think they posed a bigger danger than the Spurs or Lakers would have offered.
Of those three Western teams, it’s probably correct in saying Miami match up best with OKC, yet I still think they have the higher potential of dismantling the Heat’s dreams.
LeBron James can guard Derrick Rose to Dwight Howard, so he can certainly take Kevin Durant, but the incredible length that guy has means there really isn’t anyone in the world that can challenge his shot. Every look is wide open for him.
Russell Westbrook has more potential than any guard in the league and on his day is the best guard in the league. His change of pace, his athleticism and streaky shooting put opponents in comas.
Then you have the incredible versatility of James Harden, the shot blocking presence of Serge Ibaka, the lockdown defender Thabo Sefolusha and the anchor Kendrick Perkins.
This team scares me the most of every other club in the NBA because they can rip you apart in a split second. When you give them a little, they take everything. They can put up 40 points in a quarter without breaking a sweat.
Durant, Westbrook and Harden can all easily blow up for 25+ points each. Durant and Westbrook combined for 90 earlier this season. That frightens me.
But, with that incredible talent and scoring ability comes a down side.
Their high octane, high speed, transition offense is often laboured by inflated turnover numbers. They led the league in turnovers during the regular season.
For his immense talent, Russell Westbrook can be very erratic. Kevin Durant is no where near the playmaker he needs to be, although he has admittedly gotten a lot better, and James Harden is still a work in progress at running the point (when controlling the second unit). This plays right into the hands of Miami.
OKC are a jump shooting team. If their shots are falling, look out. If their shots are missing, they panic and revert into ineffective isolation plays and look to exploit their superior athleticism. In this series that will not work.
As good as the Thunder have been so far, they have not faced a defense like Miami’s. They thrive in the half court. If Oklahoma want to play the transition game for 48 minutes, the Heat will play that too.
But for everything I say, there poses that possibility that the Thunder will lock on and pour in 120 points without trying. That is the scary thing about this team.
They are still very young and really only entering their prime as a unit. It is debatable as to whether they will be able to keep all three of their stars whilst also re-signing Ibaka. But until that comes this team will largely be the same and this may be the first of many Finals battles between these two.
LeBron James is the best player in the world and has been playing at a level no one has seen since no.23 retired. But for the Heat to win they will need Dwyane Wade to play like Dwyane Wade. Continued production from Chris Bosh and their shooters is also key.
I don’t want to do the pukey sports analysis of the Finals and cut through every aspect of each team and where and how each side will win it.
I will just offer this prediction.
Miami Heat will win the NBA Championsip.
I think they will do it in 5 games.