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Tuesday, June 12, 2012



 Miami Heat VS Oklahoma City Thunder

The NBA's two most star-laden teams square off in this years NBA Final; Oklahoma City and Miami. Each team is led by their "Big Three"-Lebron James, D'wayne Wade, and Chris Bosh for Miami. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden for the Thunder. All of the hype and focus is on Lebron versus Kevin Durant. But there are many other questions; can Miami's pick and roll defense shut down the best pick and roll offense in the league? Will the Thunder turn the ball over, and allow the Heat to get out in transition, or have they fixed that problem? Miami is deadly in transition, and scoring easy baskets off of turnovers is their best offense. Will the Thunder's superior depth allow them to wear down the Heat?   Can Lebron vs Durant become the 2010's version of Magic VS Bird? Can Lebron get his first NBA Championship? More after the jump

Can Miami's pick n roll defense slow down the Thunder's pick n roll offense?
The Thunder run the most pick n roll of any team in the NBA. The Heat have the best pick n roll defense in the NBA. So something has to give in this matchup. I don't think the Heat can stop the Thunder's pick n roll, but they can definitely slow it down. If Miami traps on the pick and roll, it will force the ball out of Thunder PG, Russell Westbrook's hands. This should be a good thing for Miami, as Westbrook likes the ball and has the tendency to overdribble, and turn the ball over. He also likes to get to the rim. If Westbrook is unable to get to the rim, the Thunder will lose a valuable part of their offense. On the flip side the Heat's reliance on the trap could be a blessing in disguise for the Thunder. If Westbrook continues to facilitate and pass the ball to the open man like he did in the last four games of the Spurs series, the Thunder could wind up with a lot of open jumpers. The Thunder are a great jump-shooting team, and if they can hit the open jumpers they should receive from Miami's style of defense, they will win this series.
Will the Thunder turn the ball over and allow Miami easy transition baskets?
The simple answer is yes. The Thunder led the NBA in turnovers during the regular season, and Miami has forced the most turnovers this postseason with 15.1 turnovers forced per game. But In the playoffs, it has been a different story for OKC, as the Thunder have averaged the second fewest turnovers during the first three rounds of this postseason. OKC averaged 16.3 turnovers per game during the regular season compared to just 11.5 turnovers per game this postseason. That stat is just another example of the Thunder growing up and maturing as a team during this years playoffs. That being said, the Heat will be the best defensive team that OKC will have faced in the playoffs, by far. And if Miami is able to create turnovers and get easy buckets in transition, it will go a long way to solving the Heat's half court offensive woes. Conversely, if the Thunder take care of the ball, and don't turn it over, they will have a distinct advantage in this series. The Heat get a majority of their baskets in transition, and if that is taken away from them they will have to rely on their halfcourt offense. Miami struggles with shot selection and consistency in their half-court offense, at times.

Will the Thunder's superior depth allow them to wear down the Heat?
There is no question that OKC fields the deeper team of the two finalists. The question is, can they use that depth to wear down Miami, as the series goes along? Miami is basically a three person team. Wade, James, and Bosh averaged 67.2 points combined per game. The rest of the Heat players combined for an average of 31.3 points per game. Miami's "Big Three also grab nearly half of the Heat's rebounds, and have over 60 percent of the Heat's assists.  Lebron James, played 37.5 minutes per game during the regular season and is is averaging 42.4 minutes during the playoffs. Last year he played less minutes, but he still wore down in the Finals. This season he played all those minutes with the added burden of a compressed schedule. Will he wear down in the Finals again? Both D'Wayne Wade, and Chris Bosh are playing with injuries, so the Heat can ill afford Lebron to wear down this year. The Thunder have the personnel to guard the Heat's main components with multiple bodies, which will wear down Miami's stars. The Thunder have nine guys in their rotation at times and OKC is not afraid to play their bench big minutes. This will be a huge advantage for them in the Finals. Miami is also coming off a closely contested and hard fought seven game series with the Boston Celtics, and will have just two days rest before the Finals. The Thunder will have had almost a week off before the Finals start.

Can Lebron vs Durant become the 2010's version of Magic VS Bird?
I know for a fact the NBA hopes so, as these two are the NBA's two most marketable stars. I think this rivalry could eventually surpass Bird vs Magic. In Kevin Durant and Lebron James you have the two best players in the NBA. And make no mistake, there is nothing better than the two best athletes of their sport battling for a championship. That is what will make this rivalry great, and what could make this rivalry legendary. Both James, and Durant are in their primes, and are only going to get better. That fact just made the rest of the NBA cringe. Another fact that made Bird vs Magic great was that they met three times in the Finals. Well, barring injury both Lebron's and Durant's teams should dominate, and be the favorites to win their respective conferences for the foreseeable future. Currently there is no up and coming team on the horizon to knock either of these two teams off. So they should meet in multiple Finals.(Especially if this draws huge ratings, which it will. David Stern is not above manipulating the NBA: See this years lottery, vetoing the Chris Paul trade, etc.) Also helping this rivalry, is the fact that most American's for whatever reason dislike Lebron James and his team, while simultaneously most American's like Kevin Durant, and want to see him and his team succeed. When you have two polarizing figures competing against each-other, it makes people feel invested in the outcome of the games, and draws in the casual fan. This will lead to more people forming opinions and rooting interests about the two players at the National level.  I guarantee that everyone watching this NBA Final will have a vested interest in who wins, one way or another.

Can Lebron get his first NBA Championship?
I think Lebron will eventually win multiple NBA titles, but he will have to wait at least another year to win his first. It will not be his fault, as I suspect he will continue his superb play that he has shown throughout this playoffs. The reason his team will come short is that this Thunder team appears to be gelling and maturing into a legendary team before our eyes. This team has the makings of a dynasty as they do not have a star player over the age of 25,  and they have four star players. The Thunder took the first step on the quest to greatness, by defeating the Spurs four straight times in the Western Conference Finals. In the process, the Thunder ended the Spurs 20 game winning streak, and overcame a 2-0 series deficit. This, on the heels of eliminating the last two defending champs in the previous two rounds. The Thunder have the deeper team, and they are collectively a lot healthier than the Heat going in to this series. Both of which, I, believe will be huge for the Thunder. This will be a close series, but home court advantage and a better supporting cast around their "Big Three" will allow the OKC Thunder to prevail in seven closely fought contests.
The Pick: OKC in seven games

Finals MVP: Kevin Durant

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