The drama consumed season filled with the lockout, a shortened season, injured superstars and more has come to a boiling point. The two teams that everyone thought would be in the Finals actually did make it for once. The Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder are about to face off in a Finals match up that has the potential to be one of the best Finals series in a very long time.
The story lines behind this match up are intriguing. You've got the Heat, who are trying to avenge a Finals loss from a year ago to get not five, not six, not seven....but one championship. And then the Thunder. The young, athletic team from the midwest who we, as NBA fans, have watched grow into a powerhouse right before our eyes. David Stern has to be thrilled with the result because the ratings for the series should be as high as ever.
ESPN.com did one of their "NBA Roundtable 5 on 5" articles yesterday so let's answer of their questions...
The most important player in the Finals is _________.
The answer to this question is (as every analyst answered identically) LeBron James. The Chosen One himself, who would've guessed.....literally every person in America. This is LeBron's time. He's coming off of another MVP season and unlike a year ago, he seems to have finally remembered how to play the game of basketball like he knows how to. Perfect example- Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals. LeBron had 45 points and 15 rebounds....oh and by the way, he had 30 of those points in the FIRST HALF. The game was literally over at halftime, all thanks to LeBron. If LeBron is able to summon his talents like he has throughout the playoffs and avoid being intimidated by the spotlight (as he has this year), he could finally redeem himself and become an NBA champion.
The most important match up in this series is ___________.
Dwyane Wade vs Thabo Sefolosha/James Harden. Throughout these playoffs, Wade has been very inconsistent- something we're not used to seeing from him. The former Finals MVP will be crucial to the Heat's success during this series. If he plays the way we all know he can, the Heat could have a much easier time with the Thunder than many people expect. But, the offense/defense combination of James Harden/Thabo Sefolosha could pose problems for Wade. Sefolosha has really been a crucial X-factor for OKC throughout the playoffs (in particular in the San Antonio series). He's a lock down defender who provides the team with a HUGE boost when he's able to contribute offensively. James Harden is a true offensive threat and one of the best young players in the league. He's also been extremely clutch for the Thunder throughout these playoffs.
The most important X-factor in the Finals is ____________.
The Heat's bench. It's been well documented that the Miami bench has underperformed this season. They struggle mightily offensively and relying heavily on them could pose problems for the Heat. Without help from their role players, the Miami Heat could find themselves in another losing situation in the Finals.
The first sign you'll be looking for in the Finals will be ___________.
If Miami comes out aggressively from the start of the game. There have been a few games in the playoffs where the Heat have lacked aggressiveness and fallen behind early. Although there were times they were able to recover from the slow start, they won't have such an easy time doing that against the Thunder and their raucous arena. It is important for LeBron and Wade to come out firing on all cylinders and setting the tone for their team. If the Heat lack aggressiveness, the Thunder could potentially blow them out Game 1.
The winner of the Larry O'Brien trophy will be ___________.
OKC in 7. I could easily be wrong about this pick because Miami is obviously a great team. But for some reason I feel good about this Thunder team. They have everything going for them right now. Durant, Westbrook, Harden, Ibaka and the bench have been great. The Thunder even have the fan advantage (the OKC fans are much rowdier than those in Miami). It'll be another disappointing year for LeBron and the first chapter in the dominant career of Kevin Durant.