This season reminds me of the fireworks on the 4th of July. It starts off slow, with some big explosions here and there. Gradually it speeds up, a few more big explosions. About two-thirds of the way through, you start to big explosions, until the final salvo where they hit with 50, 75, or 100 fireworks going off in a span of one minute. This is the NBA’s final salvo. And boy, oh boy we are in for a doozie!
I predicted at the beginning of the season that the final two teams would be the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder, squaring off in the NBA Finals. I had Oklahoma City taking the title and Kevin Durant becoming Mr. Big Time. He will get his chance Tuesday night when LeBron James and Dwyane Wade bring the Heat to Chesapeake Arena. I have it pegged that this NBA Finals will be the best NBA Finals since the days of the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers, when Larry Bird and Magic Johnson went head-to-head.
One thing is for certain: this series won’t be lacking any star-power.
Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Kevin Durant lead the Thunder and Chris Bosh, James, and Wade lead the Heat. Four bona-fide superstars, Harden an up-and-coming star and Bosh already a star. No doubt the Thunder has the more intriguing role-players: Kendrick Perkins, Derek Fisher, Serge Ibaka, and Thabo Sefolosha. The Heat’s role players consist of Udonis Haslem, Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier, Norris Cole, and, at times when he isn’t limping after taking a wide-open three-pointer and clanging it off the rim, Mike Miller. The Thunder has the more passionate fan base. They act like Boomer Sooner is coming out of the tunnel every time OKC scores a layup. Now if only Bob Stoops was head coach. Miami’s fan base is a little more relaxed, laid-back if you will. They care if their team wins, but don’t really care if their team loses, but just happy to be there I guess. After all, LeBron promised them “Not four, not five, not six, but seven series losses in the NBA Finals. Oh wait, did I mix that up?
What this series WON’T come down to is 3-time NBA scoring champion (Durant) against 3-time league MVP (James). Nor will it come down to the boys who are out-of-control, more times than not (Westbrook and Wade). What this series will come down to is how well can the Thunder guard Bosh and how well the Heat can guard Harden. Ibaka will draw the assignment of guarding Bosh and I think Ibaka can do more things, because of his athleticism and length, to prevent easy looks for Bosh. The Boston Celtics had a difficult time in Game 7 guarding Bosh because they didn’t have much size and were playing players out of position. Now, how can the Heat guard Harden? Simply put, I don’t think they can. I think Battier will draw the assignment early on. But what about when the Heat goes small? What if their most-effective unit is Bosh, James, Wade, Chalmers and Battier? And what if the Thunder has Nick Collision or Kendrick Perkins, Ibaka, Durant, Westbrook, and Sefolosha or Fisher out on the floor? Bosh will guard the center, James, more than likely, will guard the power forward, leaving Battier to guard Durant, and leaving Chalmers or Wade to guard Harden. Not to mention one of those boys has to guard Westbrook.
It’s matchup nightmare for the Heat. For the Heat to win, it will take a great performance from James and a solid performance from Wade and Bosh, in every single game if the Heat wants to win its second NBA title in the history of their franchise. For the Thunder, it’s going to take great supporting games from Westbrook and Harden, because you know what you are getting from Durant, if they want to win. The Thunder has more talent and better depth, but the Heat has more experience. I am picking the Thunder in seven games.
- NBA Finals Roundtable: Analyzing top storylines in Heat-Thunder (sportsillustrated.cnn.com)
- NBA Finals Preview – Oklahoma City vs. Miami (1070thefan.com)
- NBA Finals promises to be a duel between Heats LeBron James, Thunders Kevin Durant (miamiherald.com)
- NBA Finals promises to be a duel between Heat’s LeBron James, Thunder’s Kevin Durant (miamiherald.com)