June 12, 2012

2012 NBA Playoff Predictions: NBA Finals

Thoughts: Here it is, the inevitable Finals match-up that came within a Spurs collapse and the Celtics running out of gas away from not happening.

So who's it gonna be, the team that stole their best player or the team that stole their team? As far as experience goes, the Heat have the upper hand. This will be LeBron's 3rd trip to the Finals, Chris Bosh's 2nd, and of course both Udonis Haslem and Dwyane Wade are already champions.

But what the Thunder lack in experience, they make up for in talent. There's no question who the best overall team in this series will be. Kevin Durant is a 3-time scoring champ, but his team goes 8 deep, while the Heat only go about 3 or 4, on a good night.

Of course the Heat do have the best overall player in the Finals, but he's been playing an insane amount of minutes, and even if he was well rested, who's to say he actually shows up this year? I'm a big LeBron fan, but even I can admit he was absolutely pathetic in the 2011 Finals. Yeah, he says he won't regret the Finals this year, but how can one believe that until they see it? I know I can't, and again, I'm a Heat fan.

Home court advantage works out in favor of the Thunder, but not just because they'd get 4 home games to the Heat's 3 (if the series lasted that long). OKC has a legit home court advantage because of their raucous crowd, and it shows with their 7-0 home playoff record. Regardless, Miami is gonna have to find a way to overcome it and win one of the first 2 games in Oklahoma City. This is likely a 4 or 5 game series if they can't.

Miami's Key To Victory: The superstars playing like superstars. Let's just hypothetically say LeBron plays as well as he did in the Conference Finals in the NBA Finals, they Heat still won't win without Wade playing like he did in Games 4-6 of the Indiana series. Same thing goes for if Wade played great and LeBron no-showed again. I mean, clearly Wade is hurt and playing at only about 70%, but I can't see any possible way the Heat win without big performances from each of the Big 3.

Also, the Heat need to take less 3's, especially LeBron and Wade. It would be ideal if those 2 went 0 for 0 from 3, but if they must shoot, it always needs to be less than 2 a game. And as a team, jacking up 20-plus 3's per game is probably a losing formula.

Oklahoma's Key To Victory: Russell Westbrook continuing to defer to Kevin Durant. In the first 2 games of the San Antonio series, Westbrook shot the ball 45 times to Durant's 36. They lost both games. In the next 4 games, Westbrook shot 66 times to Durant's 73, and they won all 4 games. It's that simple, so if Westbrook plays point guard and let's Durant take the lead, they will be fine. But if Westbrook tries to be Derrick Rose South, it could lead to trouble.

Miami's X-Factor: Mario Chalmers. The last thing the Heat want is to have Dwyane Wade killing himself on defense trying to guard Russell Westbrook. That doesn't have be the case as long as Chalmers shows up, plays hard, and doesn't pick up ticky tack fouls.

Oklahoma's X-Factor: Thabo Sefolosha. In addition to Westbrook deferring to Durant, another key to OKC winning the West was Sefolosha's defense on Tony Parker. If he can stifle Wade like he did Parker, there's no reason the Thunder shouldn't cruise to the title.

Prediction: Thunder win in 6. At the last minute I thought about going with Thunder in 5, but I'll give Miami the benefit of the doubt and say they win 2 of their 3 home games before getting closed out in OKC.

(Side note: No matter who loses this series, the true losers are the basketball fans in Seattle and Cleveland.)