The NBA Finals are finally upon us, and it's the exact matchup I was hoping for and expecting, OKC Thunder and the Miami Heat. These two were arguably the best team in their respective conferences, so it's only fitting they meet in the Finals, but this is a tough one to predict.
Heat's 2nd Finals in 2 Years
This is going to be a helluva matchup, as both teams have immense talent. It's the two super stars of the East vs. the rising young powerhouse of the West. The Heat showed in game 7 vs. the Celtics how they can just take over a game and dominate when LeBron and Wade are going to the basket and Chris Bosh is knocking down shots, they're pretty much unstoppable. However, the Thunder sport a defensive unit that should be able to at least compete with Miami's offensive stars. They have big Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins to guard the basket and protect against those Wade and LeBron power-drives to the basket when they just take their man on the dribble and fly to the hoop. They won't be able to do that as easily vs. OKC. Also, the Thunder have one of the best perimeter defenders in the game in Thabo Sefolosha. I believe the Coach Brooks would be wise to throw Sefolosha on Wade, because I think James is too strong for him and Thabo can at least neutralize D-Wade a bit. That would leave a Durrant/James matchup which would likely make for an epic battle. On paper, the Thunder compare very favorably with the Heat, as the Heat don't have an inside presence on offense or defense like the Thunder have with Ibaka and Perkins.
Are the Thunder Ready?
Ultimately, I think this series is going to come down to whether or not the Thunder can take advantage of their mis-matches. I really believe that this as Oklahoma's series to lose if they can play their game, but the Heat will pounce on them and bury them if they don't. The other clear advantage that OKC has besides inside presence on defense is their stud point guard Russell Westbrook, who when he's right, will take over a game kinda like Rajon Rondo almost did to the Heat in game 7. Rondo was giving Miami all sorts of trouble driving to the hop and either dishing off to an open shooter or finishing at the rim himself. Westbrook isn't quite the passer that Rondo is, but he can be much more dangerous on offense when he has his shot. When his shot is on, he's not only a threat from outside, but one of the fastest, most efficient guards in the league off the dribble. The Heat turned it up when they had to against the aging Celtics, but their paper thin prevailing in that series tells me they have all kinds of issues on defense, and I expect the Thunder to take full advantage of those issues. That said, the Thunder are one of the youngest collective groups in the league, and they showed it at times in their series vs. San Antonio. If they make rookie mistakes on the big stage, as I've said, the Heat will pounce. In the end though, I expect the Thunder to be too much for Miami and although it very well could take all 7 games to do it, I think the OKC Thunder will be the next champion of the NBA.