Maybe LeBron James, Kevin Durant and their respective teams meeting in the NBA Finals is something that's been written in the sand for months now. They were, actually, the two biggest names to keep the league afloat during the lockout and the two who regularly helped one another become better players in the process.* Now, starting tonight, we'll see them on the NBA's biggest stage standing four wins away away from immortality.
Over the next few pages, we'll break down the series which has the potential and star power to find itself amongst the all time greats. Our very own Sam Cadet explains why Durant and the Thunder will walk away victorious and if you really need to guess who took LeBron and the South Beach Brigade, chances are you're new to these parts. As is the case with everything we do around here, your input is valued as long as you're bringing something worthwhile to the discussion.
Without further ado, let's talk basketball, folks.
5 Reasons Why The Thunder Will Triumph - S. Cadet
1. Home Court Advantage - Miami losing homecourt will be bigger than most want to make out. They've lost most of their playoff games on the road and will get an even livelier crowd in the Chesapeake Energy Arena. Playing out of a funk against a Thunder squad juiced by the crowd will be an extremely tough task. Remember how OKC clinched their trip to the finals? If not, the boisterous crowd helped them overcome a 15 point half-time deficit against a better coached and superior Spurs team. Marinate on that.
2. Who Said The Swiss Are Neutral? - You don't expect offense from Thabo Sefolosha outside of the occasional three. He earns his money defending on the perimeter and, going on history, he's held Wade to 43% in their meetings dating back to last year. Dwyane's still not 100% so expect Sefolosha to hassle him until the refs come to the rescue.
3. Good Luck Guarding Westbrook, Chalmers...NOT! - Russell has self-actualized into the scoring point guard he's always dreamed of being. Almario Vernard will look as awkward as his actual name as he tries in vain to contain Russ. Westbrook's J should also thwart Miami's zone once he gets going so, unless Miami switches or doubles, expect some long nights for the Heat's back court.
4. Rim Protection - Miami hasn't seen a team yet with two bigs guarding the interior like Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins. Kendrick does enough bullying inside to alter shots while Ibaka doesn't stop at turning would be easy buckets into bad attempts. He sends them to the 12th row! The tandem helped OKC lead the playoffs in block shots and will disturb Dwyane and NorBel's drives. They're not afraid to be on the wrong side of the poster. That solo L is pretty much inevitable but, if their efforts leads to the TSS "we won the game though" staple, the Ws are more than worth the momentary embarrassment.
5. Durant The Closer - The NBA's cinderella story will roll on to the asterisk trophy. Durant's had little to no issue scoring on James throughout his whole career. The same can be said about NorBel but OKC's aforementioned front line can and will hold Durant down. Additionally, the no-hand checking rule I've long hated will be handy down the stretch. Portland's second regret can score off the dribble on pretty much anyone Miami throws at him. Expect Durant to make the plays at the hoop James won't down the stretch and, with Miami's lack of enforcers, that means free buckets and trips to the line.
Prediction - I want to say OKC in six but they'll win in seven. They have three straight games at Gloria Estefan's gym and with that comes tomfoolery and drama to keep Miami in it. David Stern will text directions to the officials while we groan at our TVs. The league uses T-Mobile so calling isn't a reliable option.
Ok, now that my tin-foil fitted is off, OKC and Miami play pretty much the same way: a combination of iso and fast break basketball. OKC's bench has been more dependable though even with Harden in a semi-funk. Most importantly, they've shown they can switch up and share the ball for looks off the pick n' roll, dribble-drive and good old ball rotation on zone and man to man defenses. All these factors mean Miami's 3 on 5 show stops here and now. KD will win the Finals MVP, the sports world and five internets while we enjoy mountains of NorBel jokes and memes in the aftermath.
5 Reasons Why The Trophy Will Vacation In Miami For The Summer -- J. Tinsley
1. The Pick & Roll - While they did pull off the delayed sweep of San Antonio, an ugly possible cause for concern reared its head for Oklahoma City - their bigs, primarily Kendrick Perkins, aren't exactly the greatest at stopping the pick and roll. Sam was right when he noted San Antonio was the better coached and deeper team, but pending Erik Spoelstra realizes the Heat are pretty damn effective putting any combination of LeBron, Wade and Bosh in a pick and roll situation, Miami could start cooking. Keywords: "realizes" and "could."
2. Team Defense - Ok, Miami played the Knicks will no real point guard, the Pacers with no real superstar and the Celtics who gave everything they had and came within a quarter of being in the Finals. That said, Miami hasn't seen an offense like Oklahoma City's which just so happens to be the number one scoring offense in the postseason lead by the league's highest scoring trio. Yet, if you're pulling for Miami and need something to put your hat on, the Heat are only giving up an impressive 88 points per contest and ranked in the top five in team defense throughout the regular season. Miami can lock down when they want to. And you'd think the NBA Finals would be a time when you want to.
Oh, and OKC has the propensity to turn the ball over quite often. And we all know what happens when Miami gets in a fast break situation.
3. Haslem & Bosh's Ability To Hit Jumpers - This stands for Mike Miller, James Jones* and Shane Battier, too, but if Udonis Haslem and Chris Bosh are hitting mid range jumpers, this means Perk and Ibaka have to come out and guard them. If Perk and Ibaka have to come out and guard them, this means open lanes for Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. Open lanes for Dwyane Wade and LeBron James usually mean SportsCenter Top 10 highlights and free throws (which they have to do a much better job converting this series). One more thing. Bosh needs to continue coming off the bench at least to start this series to match OKC's firepower with The Bearded One. He will win a game for Miami this series.
4. Small Ball - In order to get Thabo's defense and Harden's sixth man wizardry on the court at the same time, they'll have to go small. Miami will too by likely putting LeBron at the four and Bosh at the five. Then the question arises, can Harden guard Wade? No disrespect to the Defensive Player of the Year finalist in Serge Ibaka and Young Jeezy clone in Perk, OKC isn't exactly Freddie Krueger in the post. Plus, Miami has found success in the past reverting to their small line up.
* - You want to feel really uncomfortable? Watch this guy play defense. Just imagining Jones somehow getting stuck on K.D. would end worse than a Betty White porno. Yeah, they're both good at what they do - Betty at comedy and James at shooting - but get them out of their element and we all suffer.
5. Because The World Is Waiting For Them To Fail - Simple. OKC are the "good guys." Miami's the most hated sports entity in the current sports landscape, led by LeBron James. They came together the wrong way. They complain too much. They do something to piss people off everyday. I'm telling you, they're a George W. Bush co-sign from having the Internet collapse. With that said, they cannot lose this series. Well, they can, but it'd be in their best interest not to. Durant's still three years away from being ringless before the media and then the world turns on him. The time is right now for Miami. The time is especially now for LeBron James; a moment he has vowed to redeem himself following last year's Finals meltdown. Hell, the time is for me now, too, I guess.
Prediction - I don't even want to predict anything, but as this song I heard at church once say, I've come this far by faith. I'm tired of being depressed in July. I just want to be happy again. I just want to pull a Scarface from Half Baked when he quit his job. I just want to go to the parade in Miami, get really drunk and possibly have one crazy night with two disease-free, beautiful Brazilian ladies who somehow mistake me for Carlos Arroyo's second cousin. Miami in 7. LeBron, Finals MVP.
Kudos to the NBA for their impressive song selection through the playoffs. This is appropriate for the Finals giving what's considered and an even bigger look for Usher.