|"KD, has anyone told you that you have bad posture?" "Not after I drop 40 on them, your majesty."|
It's the finals at last and you couldn't ask for a better matchup. The Thunder and the Heat, no plural nouns allowed! It's a dream matchup for any NBA fan with a lisp. More importantly, it's showdown time: Kevin Durant vs. Lebron James; Dwayne Wade vs. Russell Westbrook; Shane Battier vs. Thabo Sefalosha...okay that last one isn't as appetizing, it's just fun to say "Thabo Sefolosha" out loud. Those first four names put us as close to an NBA Jams video game finals as we'll ever get. Lebron and Durant are the two best players in the known universe while Westbrook and Wade are easily in the top 10, though Wade is slipping downward as Westbrook trends upward. I'll thank everyone else to kindly step the hell off the floor and let these four superstars go at it... wait, that's not allowed? Alright, well lets then take a look at seven factors that will determine this series: Why seven? Because this series is going seven, guaranteed.
1) Length: You've heard it said before with Oklahoma City, they have extremely long arms. All the better to swat you with. It's like a team with 5 Kevin McHales on it. The Heat barely defeated the Celtics and their T-Rex arms and now they have to deal with a flock of condors. It's going to be an adjustment. Even their coach Scotty Brooks, who is only 5-ft '7 in lifts, has got a wingspan of 8 feet. It's FACT. It also helps him clothesline refs after bad calls.
|"Guys, this hand signal means Lebron is now the coach!"|
3) Will Westbrook to defer to KD when needed? Up until recently, the answer to that question has been a resounding no. Westbrook always goes shot crazy in the 4th quarter of close games. He's a tremendous talent, but Durant is still more efficient and a better pure shooter. If Westbrook goes into full YMCA chucker-mode in this series, it could spell big trubs in little OKC.
4) The Chalmers Theorem: When Mario Chalmers scores, the Heat win. The problem is the Heat often ignore him like a drunk uncle on Thanksgiving. He's their best 3-point shooter, and finishes nicely at the rim, but also defers to his teammates. If he shoots less 3s than Bosh and Wade in this series, it will be over in 5.
5) Fear the Beard: James Harden is easily the 5th best player in this series (sorry Bosh, take another fade away 22-footer, and ice your little boo boos, you wuss), and he'll have to be accounted for. If Battier guards Durant, Lebron may end up on Harden some of the time, as well as on Westbrook. Basically, Lebron will cover everyone at some point, because he's ridiculous. If Harden gets into the lane, Miami doesn't have great shot blockers to stop him. Harden also trained at the Ginobili Academy of Flop in Buenos Aires, and knows how to get to the line. Miami would be wise to force him right, but no one's bothered to do that to Ginobili for 10 years, so I doubt that kind of in-depth strategery takes hold yet from a Spoelstra-coached team.
|Even James Harden can't believe no one knows he's going left yet.|
6) Can Serge Ibaka stay out of foul trouble? When all else fails for the Heat, James and Wade throw themselves at the rim with reckless abandon. Ibaka is the Thunder's last line of defense and is a fantastic help defender. His timing will have to remain excellent, as it was in the Conference finals. It wouldn't hurt if he goes 11 for 11 again either.
7) Will the refs let them play? In the post-Donaghy era, the refs must be discussed. Most assuredly they will blow some calls, but let's hope they aren't game changing, like this one in '06. This means, please NBA, don't let Joey Crawford or Dick Bavetta call any of these games. And to all the players, it's enough with the flopping already. It's not the World Cup, suck it up and play and let the best team win. Thank you.
Prediction: The Thunder just beat an outstanding Spurs team, while the Heat struggled to overcome a Celtics team that was so old (how old were they?), Larry King calls them his contemporaries. Thunder in 7.
Enjoy the series!