Well, we are finally here. From the beginning of this short season, the Finals matchup everyone wanted to see was the Miami Heat against the Oklahoma City Thunder, and that is exactly where we are now.
While both teams were the #2 seed in their respective conferences, they were still both seen as the two best teams. Miami had an easier path the the finals when Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls went down with a knee injury, but they were still tested. In the first round they gave up one game to the Knicks who hadn't won a playoff game in over 10 years. Round two matched the Heat with the young Indiana Pacers. The Pacers could easily be the best team in the East in a few years, but not this year. While they did win two games, Miami closed the series out strong to advance to the conference finals.
The Boston Celtics met the Heat in the conference finals and gave them their toughest test yet. Not much was expected of this series as the Celtics had just come off a lackluster seven game series victory over the Philadelphia 76ers. With the way the Celtics played in that series, many thought Miami would run right over them. Boston had other ideas as they took this series to seven games and even had a chance to close it out at home in Game 6. LeBron James had one of his best playoff performances in that Game 6 elimination game as he scored 45 points, grabbed 15 rebounds, and dished out five assists.
The Thunder had a much tougher road to the Finals on paper, but with the way they dominated you would think it was easier than Miami's. In the three series they have played, they have only lost three games and are undefeated at home. Since they beat the Spurs and the Bulls are already out, that means the Thunder have home court advantage in the finals and that is a huge advantage for them.
The most impressive statistic of the Thunder's playoff run is that they are the first team since 1998 not named the Spurs, Lakers, or Mavericks, to reach the NBA Finals in the Western Conference, and they beat all three of those teams to get there. This team is very young but also very poised and focused on taking home the title.
This series is going to be all about matchups. Who will guard LeBron? Who will guard Westbrook? The thing is, no one can really "guard" these players, they can only hope to keep them to average or slightly below average play. There has not been a finals matchup with this much star power since probably the 2001 Finals between the Lakers and 76ers which had Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, and Allen Iverson. While that series had three future Hall of Famers, this series also has three and maybe even more.
The Heat have their "Big 3" that made all the headlines when they joined forces a couple years ago. LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined Dwayne Wade down in Miami for the sole reason to win multiple titles. The Thunder have a "Big 3" of their own, but they came together the traditional way. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden were all top five draft picks by the Thunder in 2007, 2008, and 2009 respectively. While these six star players all got here in different ways, they all have the same end goal and that is all that matters.
This SHOULD be the one of the most exciting NBA Finals in recent memory. Whether or not it will live up to the hype? Who knows, but it will definitely be entertaining to say the least. Star players aside, the true factor that will determine the winner of this series is the play of role players. The Thunder are known for having solid role players such as Thabo Sefolosha who is a top class defensive specialist, or Nick Collison who is an undersized power forward but will give solid defensive minutes and rebound well. The Heat are know for having weaker role players and relying more heavily on their stars to carry them every single night. This lack of depth, along with the home court advantage in favor of the Thunder, will be too much for Miami to overcome as they will go down in six games.
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