Dime’s 2012 NBA Finals Predictions

By: 06.12.12
2012 NBA Finals

2012 NBA Finals (design. Ryan Hurst)

With the NBA Finals kicking off tonight, everyone has an opinion on what’s going to happen. It’s been a while since there was no definitive favorite in the Finals. This year figures to be one of the best series in recent memory. Miami has the best player. OKC has the home-court advantage. We think it’s fair to say that the Heat have the most pressure on them, and how they respond to that could go a long way in determining this series.

Miami fans say the LeBron James we say at the end of the Eastern Conference Finals, the guy who moved without mercy like one of The Others from Game of Thrones, will show up again in the Finals. OKC fans say it won’t matter because they have the deeper team, the crowd and the star players who always come through when it counts.

We scooped up reactions from most of the Dime staff, as well as our contributors, on what we expect to happen this year…

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Sean Sweeney
@SEANesweeney
Miami in 7
This is hard. I really believe the Thunder are the better team, but still… I have a hard time envisioning this Big Three in South Beach losing two consecutive years in the Finals. For LeBron, this pretty much is do-or-die time. Unless he wants to be the second coming of Jerry West, he can’t afford to go down for a third-straight time on the NBA’s biggest stage. For that alone, coupled with the fact that OKC has become slightly overrated in the past two weeks, is why I’m taking the Heat. It’s just a gut feeling.
MVP:
LeBron. Or Eddy Curry.
X-Factor:
Mario Chalmers. Miami’s whipping boy told me at All-Star Weekend that he’s always been a clutch shooter. Evidence backs it up. Now ‘Rio better pack his jumper for this one. Mike Miller is moving like a skeleton nowadays. Shane Battier can give you one solid 20-minute stretch every few weeks. And Norris Cole started his offseason after he dropped 20 on Boston in the opening week of the season. Chalmers will need to come up big for the Heat to win.
Surprise of the series:
Outside of LeBron actually coming through? How about this: Miami will two games in Oklahoma City. At this point, I don’t think a crowd is going to affect two evenly-matched teams like this. Okay, so the Thunder haven’t lost at home in the playoffs, but the Heat were the most dominant team in the league this year when they could put LeBron/Wade/Bosh together on the floor. With everything on the line, I’m expecting all three of those guys to average at least 35 minutes a night.

Andrew Greif
@AndrewGreif
Miami in 6
The Heat have an edge to them this postseason, unlike their first season together, that is
bolstered by Erik Spoelstra‘s improved coaching. They’re smaller than OKC but will win two games on the road because of the leadership of LeBron James and Miami’s pick and roll.
MVP:
LeBron James. The Heat star will play five positions at times in the series, picking matchup mismatches as he sees fit.
X-Factor:
Shane Battier. His defense on James Harden won’t stop the swingman in every game, but he can be a roadblock that will blunt the edge of OKC’s offense.
Surprise of the series will be:
Kendrick Perkins. He doesn’t have a true player to guard consistently in this series, which will force him to get out of his comfort zone and guard more in the perimeter. He’ll use those mismatches to his advantage, though, on offense.

Dylan Murphy
@DylanTMurphy
Miami in 6 games
Miami’s Big Three shifted from a complicated nuisance to an obvious advantage in Game 7, especially with Chris Bosh stretching the defense and forcing the shot-altering Kevin Garnett to step out to the perimeter. The same tactic can be used with equal success against Serge Ibaka if Miami stays small. I’m not picking against the Thunder because they’re young, or inexperienced, or any of those tired adjectives. It’s only because a detached, emotionless LeBron James is still the most unstoppable NBA force.
MVP:
LeBron James
X-Factor:
Mario Chalmers
Surprise of the series will be:
Kendrick Perkins playing under 10 minutes per game, since there’s really no one for him to guard.

Kristofer Habbas
@NBADraftInsider
OKC in 7
The Oklahoma City Thunder on a roll playing efficient, team basketball. Each team presents stars and superstars, but the Thunder have great balance, which will be the difference in the series when they hoist the Championship Trophy at home after seven games.
MVP:
This is an easy one; Kevin Durant will get his regular season redemption as he wins the NBA Finals MVP.
X-Factor:
The series may very well come down to whether Serge I-Blocka can balance shot-blocking and perimeter defense against Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem. Also, can he keep hitting that mid-range jumpshot to keep the defenses honest?
Surprise:
These teams are going to lock up into a defensive battle. Each team has great rotations, great shot-blocking, and will clog the paint in some low scoring wars.

Jaimie Canterbury
@SubZEROxPaste
Miami in 6
After Boston pushed Miami to the brink of elimination, they responded with resilience. I think they ride that same momentum in the Finals. The Boston series seemed to remind them what the agony of defeat really felt like so they are willing to do whatever it takes not to experience that a second time. They’ll be able to steal one of the first two, jump out to a 3-2 lead with a close Game 5 win, and then close out the Thunder in Game 6.
MVP:
The Finals MVP will be LeBron James. After having such a horrific Finals appearance last year, LeBron knows that for his team to have their best chance at a victory, he’s going to have to be the MVP of the series. He’ll have to anchor Miami’s defense, and still be dominant scoring the basketball at the same time.
X-Factor:
The X-Factor for Miami is Chris Bosh. He was the x-factor in the Boston series and he will be again in the Finals. He makes life so much easier on LeBron and Wade with his ability to knock down the mid-range jumper. If Ibaka is camping out in the paint all day, Wade and LeBron will turn into jump shooters, which is exactly what the Thunder want. But if Bosh is knocking down his jumpers, Ibaka will have to stay out there with him, leaving the paint open for Wade and LeBron to attack relentlessly.
Surprise of the series will be:
LeBron will close out a crucial Game 5, giving Miami a 3-2 lead, proving to the world, and finally to Skip Bayless, that he is capable of closing out close games.

Page 2

Ananth Pandian
@Ananth_Pandian
Oklahoma City in 7
In this all-weather-themed NBA Finals, the Thunder will triumphantly storm over the Heat in seven games. Sure, LeBron James just finished the Eastern Conference Finals playing some of the best ball of his career. Sure, LeBron James won his third regular season MVP this season. Sure, the Heat also have two All-Stars in Dwyane Wade, who finished the Eastern Conference Finals averaging 21-5-5, and Chris Bosh, who recovered from an abdominal injury just in time to drop 19 (clutch) points in a Game 7 victory.

But, the Oklahoma City Thunder have Kevin Durant, the league leader in scoring for the last three seasons who showed in the Western Conference Finals that he can score at will against anyone as the top-ranked San Antonio Spurs defense had no real answer for the Durantuala’s venomous scoring attacks. But Durant can’t do it all by himself! Oh that’s right the Thunder have an All-Star point guard in Russell Westbrook who learned to outplay Jason Kidd and Tony Parker in these playoffs. Let’s not forget about Sixth Man of the Year and beard enthusiast James Harden who can enter a game and just dictate the offense. The Thunder also have the league leader in blocks, Serge Ibaka, whose jumper seemed to be pretty on point against the Spurs.

All in all the Thunder’s depth will prove to be too much for the Heat. We can never count against LeBron but unfortunately for him, he has to hope Shane Battier, Mike Miller, Mario Chalmers and Udonis Haslem help him out. As these playoffs have shown, that sure is a lot of hoping.
MVP:
KD35. Similar to Dirk last year, Durant is just in such a groove that he will be hosting up the MVP trophy along with the Larry O’Brien trophy.
X-Factor:
The OKC Thunder’s home crowd. Down double digits in Game 6 against the Spurs, when most home crowds would be shaking their heads in disbelief, the Thunder faithful rose to the occasion and proved to be a big motivating factor in the Thunder’s come-from-behind win.

Meanwhile in Miami, Heat fans are notorious for showing up late and spending most of the game on their phones, which they are looking at through sunglasses. Compare that to the Thunder who have fans that literally break down in tears after their team makes it to the Finals:

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Surprise of the series will be:
OKC Thunder co-owner Aubrey McClendon’s supermodel niece Kate Upton will be shown on camera a lot more than we expected.

Bryan Horowitz
@SportsAngle
OKC in 7
They will be closing it out at home. I’m in no way confident about it. I don’t like the Thunder’s unimaginative offensive sets juxtaposed against the Heat’s pressure defense, the fact that they have no Finals experience, and that they’re matched up against the best basketball player on the planet. But Kevin Durant is obviously no slouch, OKC throttled a very good Spurs team and they have home-court advantage, not to mention an enormous edge with Russell Westbrook at point guard.
MVP:
Kevin Durant. It’s either going to be him or LeBron, depending on who wins the series. KD has gone 28-7-4 in the playoffs thus far.
X-Factor:
LeBron looks like a new man this year, tirelessly and emotionlessly laying waste to everyone in his past, perhaps channeling Katniss Everdeen from a book geared toward young adults. Whatever works, he’s playing some of the finest ball of his career and looks nothing like the version that shrank in the spotlight last year. Oklahoma City is far better than Indiana or Boston, but if LeBron continues playing at such a high level, it might not matter who the opponent is.
Surprise of the series:
The bloom comes off the rose for a weary Dwyane Wade after he shoots 41 percent for the series.

Austin Burton
@AustinBurton206
Miami in 5
As much as the world wants to make this about LeBron’s ability or inability to handle the pressure of the Finals, let’s not forget: Kevin Durant doesn’t have a championship either, and he’s never been to the Finals. Neither has Russell Westbrook, James Harden or Serge Ibaka. Yes, Derek Fisher and Kendrick Perkins have been to this rodeo before, but they aren’t the guys OKC is counting on to deliver a championship performance. Say what you want about LeBron, but he’s been here before, and he’s not losing this time.
MVP:
LeBron James
X-Factor:
Mario Chalmers. He doesn’t have to outplay Westbrook, he just needs to be good enough to make Westbrook work.
Surprise of the series will be:
Defense. The spotlight will always be on how many points LeBron, Durant, Wade and Westbrook score. But the series will showcase amazing D by Thabo, LeBron, Perkins, Chalmers, Westbrook, Haslem, etc.

Justin Williams
@Williams_Justin
OKC in 6
They’ve already beaten the best team in the playoffs, and we’ve seen how they play at home. This team is overflowing with confidence. I have a suspicion the Heat don’t feel quite the same way.
MVP:
Russell Westbrook. I’m the world’s biggest Westbrook apologist. I think his energy and athleticism will be huge in this series.
X-Factor:
Thabo Sefolosha. We saw him do work on Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Now he will have to do the same on Dwyane Wade and LeBron James.
Surprise of the series will be: Dwyane Wade, in a bad way. I don’t know if he’s injured or slumping, but the man looks broken. I think he struggles.

Freddy Lopez
@RealFreddyMack
OKC in 5
Yes, everyone expects and is looking forward to an epic battle that’ll end in a Game 7. However, the Thunder are more comfortable and confident than the Heat right now, especially since the Heat are the ones who have to deal with the pressure and their own inflated expectations.
MVP:
Kevin Durant will win The Finals MVP because he’s destined to continue to serve LeBron James like he did several times last summer during the lockout.
X-Factor:
The x-factor in this series will be Udonis Haslem. Not sure how much production to expect from Chris Bosh versus a much more physical and active Thunder frontline. Haslem isn’t fazed from these moments and must string together a few solid games defending the paint and knocking down timely jumpers.
Surprise:
Thabo Sefolosha will be the surprise of this series. The Thunder probably will play more small ball and Sefolosha’s defense on either Dwyane Wade or James will be critical for the Thunder’s success, so their big three can solely focus on offense during these stretches.

Page 3

Kevin Smith
OKC in 7
If Game 7 were to be played on a neutral location I might have to pick Miami. However, it’s too close of a matchup not to pick seven games and the Thunder are nearly unbeatable on their home floor.
MVP:
Kevin Durant. I feel as if it’s predetermined that whoever wins the LeBron vs. Durant matchup is destined to win the MVP.
X-Factor:
A 100 percent healthy Chris Bosh. Bosh will be counted on to knock down his jumpers so that Serge Ibaka can be lured out of the paint. The only problem is that it’s hard to knock down jumpers from the bench. If Bosh is logging major minutes and providing James and Wade with room to operate, look out.
Surprise of the series will be:
Miami loses but not because of LeBron. People have such short memories that they don’t remember him putting teams on his back in Cleveland. Although I’m predicting OKC to win the series, I think LeBron will average 30-plus points a night. HE IS NOT A CHOKER. Looks like Skip Bayless will have to pick on somebody else this summer.

Terrence Payne
@terrence_payne
OKC in 6
Oklahoma City has the ingredients of a champion; just shocking how quickly it all came together. OKC has shown the ability to come from behind in games, as well as make adjustments during the middle of series. James Harden provides the Thunder with an extra perimeter player that Miami needs to account for.
MVP:
Kevin Durant
X-Factor:
James Harden/Chris Bosh
Surprise of the series will be:
This is going to be one of the highest scoring series in recent memory. Both teams like to get out on the fast break and with some of the game’s top scorers, each game has the potential to go well past 100.

Eitan Tye
OKC in 7
LeBron is going to keep the Heat in this series (with some help from Chris Bosh and Mario Chalmers) and Wade will finally find a consistent stroke, but in Game 7’s battle of superstars in front of OKC’s deafening home crowd, Kevin Durant will take the crown from the king.
MVP:
Kevin Durant
X-Factor:
Chris Bosh. The perennially overlooked member of Miami’s ‘Big Three’ (which has really been the ‘Big One’ thus far in the playoffs with LeBron James) holds the key to this series. He came alive in Game 7 against the Celtics with 19 points on 8-10 shooting (including 3-4 from beyond the arc), and if he can keep up this efficiency, coupled with a newfound three-point shot, OKC will have no answer. Most people are looking at LeBron to win Miami the series and he will no-doubt be critical, but watch out if Bosh gets hot.
Surprise of the series will be:
The point-guard matchup. Everyone was so transfixed by Rajon Rondo‘s triple-doubles and impossible layups in the Eastern Conference Finals that they missed Mario Chalmers averaging 12 points and almost five assists per game. The guy had confidence going up against Rondo and will not be afraid to put the ball on the floor against Russell Westbrook. Couple that with Westbrook’s streaky decision-making/scoring/shooting (37.8 percent from the field against the Spurs) in the playoffs and this matchup could tip Miami’s way if Chalmers ups his defensive intensity.

Rachel Marcus
@racmar
Miami in 6
Before LeBron completely went off in this last series, I may have gone with the Thunder. But as much as you can say everyone wants it bad, the look in LeBron’s eyes make it seem like there’s no way he’s losing these Finals. And having Bosh back is huge.
MVP:
LeBron. See above.
X-factor:
Kevin Durant. It seems obvious, but Durant is still Durant and will never have the Thunder completely out of this series.
Surprise:
How good Derek Fisher is. He kind of bottomed out lately, but his veteran presence, although not enough to topple the Heat, will give OKC an edge.

Stephen Bailey
OKC in 6
The OKC bench and supporting cast will be the difference. Miami just doesn’t have the depth to match up.
MVP:
Kevin Durant
X-Factor:
Serge Ibaka
Surprise of the series will be:
Kendrick Perkins’ effect on the game. His physical presence will keep LeBron James and Dwyane Wade uncomfortable in the paint.

What are your predictions?

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