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It is almost time, we are nearly there: tomorrow at 9:00 PM ETZ the Oklahoma City Thunder will host the Miami Heat for game 1 of the 2012 NBA Finals.
This will be a series with many interesting points but one thing is for sure: this is the NBA Finals the NBA marketing managers were hoping for. LeBron James against Kevin Durant, Miami’s big three against Oklahoma’s big three.
Oklahoma, that had a better regular season record, will have the benefit of the home factor.
They won the Western Conference Finals against the San Antonio Spurs, who had impressed everybody in the second part of the season and in the play-offs. Despite going down 2-0 against the Texan veterans the Thunder overcome Greg Popovich’s appeal for “nastiness” and won the successive four games to close the series 2-4.
Kevin Durant is, of course, leading his team in scoring with 27,8 points per game, followed by Russel Westbrook’s 21,7, but, against The Spurs, Oklahoma found some unexpected offensive help in Thabo Sefolosha (19 points in game 3) and Serg Ibaka (26 points in game 4) to win two critical games. And Thabo Sefolosha will probably be one of the key of the encounters against the Miami Heat. Against the Texans Sefolosha has produced his usual defensive work. With him on the floor The Spurs have dropped 5% in their shooting percentage. If Sefolosha will be able to be a offensive factor as well against the team from South Beach, LeBron James and company will have to guard him better than usual and therefore leave more free space for Kevin Durant, Russel Westbrook and James Harden.
But, at the end, it will all go down to the big three. Kevin Durant has proved to be a clutch player and his supporting cast can be very productive as well. Russell Westbrook can carry a team to the victory but he needs to play very maturely, knowing when to pass the ball and when to follow his instinct. James “The Beard” Harden is the sixth starter of the team. Even though he usually comes out of the bench, he is part of the best team and he knows it. His intensity will be well needed.
The Thunder are a young and dynamic team but they know what it is like to play in the play-offs and how it hurts to lose at this stage. Last year Durant and his team were devastated after loosing against the Dallas Mavericks as they felt they could have won the series. The Thunder also know that this could be the last run for the young trio: for salary cap reasons the Thunder might decide to trade James Harden.
As said before: this team just wants to win!
On the other side we have the Miami Heat, who needed six games and 40 minutes to defeat the other veteran team still in the play-offs: the Boston Celtics. The green C’s fought until the last five minutes of game 7 but then the Miami Heat just played better and therefore reserved a place for the second consecutive NBA Finals.
This, hence, will be a new opportunity for redemption for the team of superstars that has promised many rings to their fans and to the world but failed to do so so far.
LeBron James is the top scorer of these 2012 NBA play-offs. But despite his 30,8 points per 18 games some doubts still remain about his level of performance at the end of thigh games. In game 5 at Miami, for example, James had 30 points but was almost out of the game in the last eight minutes. On the other side Paul Pierce, who had struggled all night, hit a huge three pointer with less than one minute left to play. Maybe in Miami this are the kind of baskets that they would like to see more.
The Chosen One, however, responded to the critics with 45 points to force game 7 and also had 31 in the last match of the series. What struck more in game 7 were James’ eyes and body language, that showed a player finally aware of his role. If this attitude will remain against the Thunder the young thunders will have to be even more careful.
Factor two of this team is, of course, Dwyane Wade, who is regarded as the real clutch player of Miami. Wade is having almost 23 points in 39 minutes per game: 3,1 points in the first quarter and then every quarter more till the 6.8 points of the last quarter. In the 41 clutch minutes (last 5 minutes of the game when the score margin is within 5 points) he has played so far in these play-offs Wade is averaging 20,2 points, 6,1 rebounds, 4,4 assists and 2,6 blocks.
The Miami Heat can also count on Chris Bosh who returned to action against the Celtics after his abdominal injury. In game 7 Bosh had 19 points, including 3 three-pointers and 8 rebounds.
As a team the Heat have both had highs and lows, of course, but the 69% from the free throw line is a statistic that Coach Spoelstra’s men will have to improve if they do not want to fall short in situations when the opposite team fouls methodically.
Prediction: it will be a hard series. Both teams want the title so badly, both teams have top-scorers, both teams have supporting cast ready to show some muscles, both teams can run quickly on the floor and be very athletic.
These two teams have the most followed, tweeted, discussed, dynamics players and for this reason the all world wants them to play the Finals. But you also have to credit the San Antonio Spurs and the Boston Celtics, that played great series and probably played in a more “basketballian” way. But that is another story.
Now it is their time: Kevin against Lebron! Please do not disappoint us!
I personally believe that the Oklahoma City Thunder will win in seven games.
Here the complete schedule of the Finals:
|Tue, Jun 12||Miami @ Oklahoma City
|Thu, Jun 14||Miami @ Oklahoma City
|Sun, Jun 17||Oklahoma City @ Miami
|Tue, Jun 19||Oklahoma City @ Miami
|Thu, Jun 21||Oklahoma City @ Miami
|Sun, Jun 24||Miami @ Oklahoma City
|Tue, Jun 26||Miami @ Oklahoma City