Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Miami Heat

SEASON SERIES: series tied 1-1 (home team won both times)
After a 23-59 record in their first year in Oklahoma City, the Thunder’s gradual progression from a lottery team to one of the NBA’s elite took another big step with a 4-2 win over the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals. Things did not come easily as the Thunder became just the 15th NBA squad to win a best-of-seven while facing an 0-2 hole and going against a Spurs team that won 20 games in a row. A win in these Finals could be the start of a new dynasty in the NBA.
Down 3-2 to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Miami Heat faced speculation of possible changes if they lost. However, behind LeBron James’ strong performances in Games 6 and 7, Miami won the East for the second year in a row and seek redemption. Things are not out of the woods yet, because those speculations will still loom unless they win here.


PG: Russell Westbrook vs. Mario Chalmers
ADVANTAGE: Russell Westbrook
-Chalmers will have his second tough matchup as he adjusts from Rajon Rondo to a more offensively aggressive point guard in Westbrook. Westbrook is averaging 21.7 points per game this postseason, but his 7.3 assists in the West Finals showcased his abilities to be a combo guard. Chalmers can score when needed though—already notching two 20-point games in the playoffs and his ability to knock down threes—but stopping Westbrook will be a tall task.

SG: Thabo Sefolosha vs. Dwyane Wade
ADVANTAGE: Dwyane Wade
-Sefolosha will have two players to try to stop in this series—LeBron James and his primary opposition in Wade. Wade has this matchup on paper, but has struggled with his shot much recently in the playoffs. In the East Finals, he shot just 44.4 percent from the field—nearly four percentage points off of his career postseason mark of 48.0 percent. Sefolosha kept Kobe Bryant and Tony Parker in check in the last two rounds and if he can force Wade’s struggles to linger, that will put more pressure on James.

SF: Kevin Durant vs. LeBron James
-This is the dream matchup most NBA fans have waited for since the lockout was resolved in November. Two of the NBA’s very best square off for the right to win the first title in what could be many for either player. On one hand, James is on a mission to quiet doubters on whether or not if he can get it done in the game’s biggest moments. None where bigger than in Game 6 when James scored 45 points, grabbed 15 boards and dished five assists to force a Game 7 against the Celtics. On the other hand, the 23-year old Durant is already an accomplished scoring champ—having won the last three titles. His 34 points and 14 rebounds to close out the Spurs in Game 6 was marvelous in getting the Thunder to their first Finals appearance since the move to Oklahoma City. Fans will not be disappointed in this series.

PF: Serge Ibaka vs. Battier/Bosh
ADVANTAGE: Bosh (if he starts), Ibaka (if Battier starts)
-While the status on whether Bosh starts or continues to come off of the bench is uncertain, the Thunder will have Ibaka at the 4 position ready to redirect Miami’s shots. In all but one playoff game, Ibaka has blocked multiple shots, but his offense is also taking notice. In Game 4 against San Antonio, Ibaka was lights out from the field, hitting all 11 of his shots for a 26-point performance. Battier will mostly be in charge of guarding Durant and to shoot spot-up threes, while Bosh could ease back into his starting role or provide a more reliable scoring option from the bench.

C: Kendrick Perkins vs. Udonis Haslem
Kendrick Perkins
-For the last few games, Haslem started at center for the Heat against Kevin Garnett, but the size advantage against Perkins might be a tough one for Haslem. Perkins will continue to provide defense inside the paint, but his 15 points against the Spurs in Game 4 shows that he can chip in offensively when needed. Haslem had his best game in Game 4 against Boston with 12 points and 17 rebounds, despite a loss. Those two will battle for rebounds all series long.

BENCH: Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Miami Heat
ADVANTAGE: Oklahoma City
-With or without Bosh coming off of the bench, the Thunder will have the advantage here with the Sixth Man of Year winner—James Harden—on their side. In the West Finals, Harden was unconscious from long range, hitting 60.9 percent of his 3-pointers en route to averaging 18.5 points per game. Derek Fisher can still knock down big shots and Nick Collision will provide tough defense in the post. Since coming back from an abdominal strain, Bosh is averaging 11.7 points and 7.0 rebounds from the bench. Mike Miller will assist Bosh in bench scoring, but one more of the Heat’s other reserves—James Jones, Joel Anthony or Norris Cole—must step up.

PREDICTION: Thunder in 7

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