If Game 1 of the 2012 NBA Finals is any indicator of how the rest of the series will play out, then we are certainly in for a treat. We saw the Thunder legitimately tested on their home court, and see the Heat be close stealing one at home, but only to have Kevin Durant come through with a trophy game. This series has everything that a fan could want: a match-up of bona-fide superstars in Durant and LeBron James, Dwayne Wade going against a stopper in Thabo Sefolosha, and so and so fort
Game 2 is a key game for both sides, but especially the Heat. The Thunder are 9-0 at home in the playoffs, beating the Mavericks, Lakers, and Spurts in succession. The Heat may be a better team than those four, but even if that’s true, it will be hard for the Heat to pull one out. The Thunder have a home court advantage unlike anyone else in the NBA – their fans pack the stands game after game, and are incredibly loud for all forty-eight minutes. It’s reminiscent of the LeBron-era Cleveland Cavaliers, who at one point rattled off thirty-plus wins at Quicken Loans Arena in 2007.
The biggest question mark heading into this game is what Dwayne Wade will show up. Will we see the explosive Wade who can get to rim consistently and gives the Heat the best one-two combo in the league. Or will it be the Wade who shoots under fifty percent, doesn’t show up on defense, and becomes a non-factor. Without Wade, the Heat are overly reliant on LeBron to carry them for forty-eight minutes. With Wade, the Heat can combat the three headed monster of Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden, who only seem to better every game. If an energetic Wade shows up, this game will be even better than Game 1, and will undoubtedly come down to the last few possessions. If a lackluster and slow Wade shows up, then a decisive Thunder win is just as likely as a close win.
As for the Thunder, they cannot count on Durant to be magical game in and game out like he was in Game 1. Expecting him to do that again would unwise, and I do expect them to avoid giving him the ball every time down the court. They can and should run plays for Westbrook and Harden, and I suspect they will. Both are money at any spot on the floor, and can take a lot of pressure off Durant. This is a luxury that Miami doesn’t seem to have; the Heat are, as I said before, overly reliant on LeBron to carry them, and as the Cavs learned a few years back, that usually doesn’t work in your favor when a title is on the line. A team needs options to win, and the Thunder have that with what I think is the best “Big Three” in the league.
All things considered, I won’t count on Wade to play well and fill up the box score until he does it again. LeBron cannot score enough by himself to outscore Durant, Westbrook, and Harden, and thus, I expect the Thunder to win another great game, but to also have it under control sometime in the fourth quarter. Give me the Thunder 101, Heat 92.