Thunder in 7
Since the Dallas Mavericks celebrated their championship in South Beach last year, the NBA has been through a rough year, with a lock out nearly ending the season before it ever began. However, as shoppers digested their Thanksgiving feast the players and owners came to a peace accord and the league like many other presents purchased on black Friday opened on Christmas Day. Going into that Christmas opener many thought the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder would make an interesting final. After a nearly two month playoff gauntlet it is those teams who will meet with the Larry O’Brian trophy on the line in the 2012 NBA Finals.
What more could the NBA want? You have stars on both teams; you have the Midwest against the glitz of South Beach. You have LeBron James cast as the villain against Kevin Durant who in his heart seems like the perfect Mother’s boy hugging his mom who has been to all his games. While Miami may have the more glamorous crowds with South Beach celebrities, OKC has created a unique refreshing atmosphere with college style crowds and color coordinated fans. Both teams have played well on their own floors and will be tough to beat at home. As some still are bitter over LeBron and his jilting of Cleveland, fans in the Pacific Northwest feel similarly jilted as the Thunder once were the Seattle Supersonics before moving under controversial circumstances in 2008.
The two stars under the brightest spotlight are LeBron James, the 2012 NBA MVP and Kevin Durant 2012 NBA scoring champion. This is first time since 1997 that the scoring champ and MVP faced each other in the NBA Finals. Discounting Kobe Bryant who while may not be passed his prime is certainly over the crust of his peak this series will not just decide the 2012 NBA Champions, but who is the best player on the planet between LeBron and Durnat.
While Durant and LeBron are the main event, the key to the series will be which teams supporting players will have a better series. A key match up in this respect will be Russell Westbrook and Dwyane Wade. Both are similar type players who themselves can tale a game over. Who wins this match up may have more to say which team will win the series than the battle for the best player. Other key match ups will be Chris Bosh against Kendrick Perkins and the play of the bench. Perkins along with Derek Fisher are the only players from the Thunder to have been on this stage before. The Heat were just here last year and will be determined to get the bad taste out of their mouths. This will be an advantage to the Heat, though the deeper Thunder bench led by Sixth Man James Harden will be plus for OKC.
Both teams are nearly unbeatable at home and both teams have survived adversity in the Conference Finals on the way to the finals, with the Heat needing to win a Game 6 on the road in Boston, while the Thunder were in an 0-2 hole before beating the Spurs in the next four games to punch their ticket to the NBA’s Main Event. Fans should get used to this match up because it may be repeated in the Finals over the next few years. The two teams met twice in the regular season, with each team winning at home. The Finals may be no different and with the Thunder having home court that may the big difference. The Heat are certainly the team that needs to win more to validate themselves, as a loss even in seven games will still be called a failure. What hurts the Heat is the senseless 2-3-2 NBA Finals format. Every other series is 2-2-1-1-1 and so should the Finals. Being the underdog, the Heat will need at least one win in OKC. One win may be something the Heat can do, but after the middle three in Miami can they win in that atmosphere? Its hard to imagine the Heat will win the series in five games so you have to imagine the best case scenario for the Heat is to head into Game 6 with a chance to win the title. However, even than it may be a tough road for the Heat as the Thunderstruck Spurs can testify after their 20 game winning streak ended in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals leading to four straight losses and a coffee chair to watch the Thunder in the Finals. This one has seven games written all over it and it has been 34 years since a road team won Game 7 in the NBA Finals. Therefore the pick is the Thunder to give Oklahoma City a professional championship led by MVP Kevin Durant who will now carry the mantle best basketball player in the world.