Unlike in Boxing where the majority of the Sweet Science Fans are yearning for Floyd Mayweather, Jr to hook up with Manny Pacquiao or in horse racing where Triple Crown hopeful, I’ll Have Another, mysteriously pulled out of the Belmont Stakes a day before the race, the NBA has given us the Finals that we wanted . The young upstart Oklahoma City Thunder will take on the beleaguered Miami Heat for the right to take home the Larry O’Brien trophy.
After a series of disappointing outcomes in the sports world this weekend, including being denied the opportunity to perhaps witness history as I’ll Have Another was scratched 24 hours before the Belmont Stakes, we now see there are questions why he was pulled from the race. All we know is that we will have to wait another year for the chance to see another triple crown hopeful come down the pike.
Then we have the disaster we call boxing. It is bad enough we can’t get the fights we want to see, but the fights that are shoved down our throats are full of controversy. Pacquiao clearly won his fight against Timothy Bradley, but two judges gave the bout to Bradley. And the sad part is that they will have rematch, pushing the Pacquiao versus Mayweather fight well into 2013, if they have it all.
Thank God, the NBA has given its fans the finals match up that we can look forward to. Yes, Heat and the Thunder will be the most anticipated Finals match up since Bird and Magic laced up their Converses. This series has everything. All Stars up and down each line up. And these are not aging stars. We are talking about players who are either in their prime or just entering it.
Obviously the Heat’s LeBron James will be the focal point of this series. It is either win or bust for him. The man has accomplished everything an NBA player can do. He has won three MVP awards, each in the last four seasons. He has won multiple scoring titles. And, he has been an All-Star every year except his rookie season. Now the only thing that is missing from his resume is that title. I can not think of a modern day athlete who is carrying more weight on his shoulders than James. He virtually carried the Heat past the Celtics, but if he is going to get that elusive prize, he will need a little help from his friends.
Dwyane Wade is going have to come up big in this series. He can’t lay low in the first half then pick up the pace in the second half like he did throughout the Eastern Conference Finals. James is going to need Wade to play like he is capable of. Wade will have to share the burden for a full game this time around. Wade will be the ex-factor in this series. The Heat’s success will depend on how he performs. If he has to get his knee drained again, so be it
Chris Bosh will have to bring his A-Game as well like he did in the final game against the Celts. The jumps shots were nice but he is going have to be more of a force on the boards and defending the paint. We expect Miami’s Big Three to come through like they did in Game 7 of Celtics series when they scored the last 28 points of the game. But if the team is going to bring the title to South Beach, the bench is going to have to produce better than they have thus far in the post season. Mike Miller, Shane Batiter, Mario Chalmers and Udonis Haslem all have had their moments in the playoff but none have been consistent. If they are going to beat the Thunder, Miami’s bench will have to raise its game.
Miami’s bench will have to be an integral factor if the Heat are going to beat the Thunder because these young cats are running at 9,000 rpm’s at all times. Led by the League’s leading scoring in Kevin Durant, the Thunder are tough to defend. Durant is 6’9″. He can put the ball on the floor, post up in the paint or pull up from thirty feet out. How can you defend this guy?
That is the question that the last three defending Western Conference Champions are still asking, as Oklahoma ended the seasons of the Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio’ Spurs this year. As great as Durant has been in this post season, he has had a little help from his friends.
Russell Westbrook is maturing right before our eyes. He has cut down on his turnovers while still being aggressive on both ends of the court. He also realized that it is wise to get Durant the ball during clutch time. But the guy that sparks this team is James Harden. Coming off the bench, Harden is like a 24oz of Red Bull with a shot of ginseng. His energy is contagious, which lifts his teammates. If Durant is the epitome of cool, calm and collective, then Harden is a bucket of uncontrolled protons.
Unlike Miami, the Thunder’s role players have consistently delivered in the post season Thabo Sefolosha, Kendrick Perkins, Nick Collison, and Serge Ibaka all have accepted their roles and have executed them to perfection. And that is why I believe the Thunder will win this series.
We know that both team’s Big Threes will produce but D wade’s play and the play of the Miami reserves will be the key factors in these Finals. Asking James to defend Harden or Durant for most of the game while carrying the scoring load will be too much to ask one man, even a player of James’ caliber. The Thunder just have too many weapons for Miami to collectively guard. The only thing that worries me about this pick is that Oklahoma relies on the jump shot too much, but they have scored in bunches and I do not think that the Heat can hang with them.