NBA Finals preview: Miami Heat vs Oklahoma City
The three ‘kings’ in Miami didn’t come together to only win one championship. Not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven. That’s not my prediction.
It was LeBron James’ after he put pen to paper in South Beach.
That statement (aka “The Promise”) from James was two years ago, and the Heat have yet to deliver even one. For the haters, it is time to forget. Celtics coach Doc Rivers and guard Keyon Dooling are of the same opinion.
“I’m proud of him: he gets too much heat,” said Rivers.
“Everyone should relax a little bit. He is great for our game; he is our game. We need to lift him instead of (trying) to tear him down,” said Dooling.
After losing 4-2 to the Dallas Mavericks in the 2010-11 NBA Finals, James copped it from all sides. The most frequent word was ‘choker’.
At crunch time, in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter/overtime, with the margin within five points, LeBron struggled. ESPN revealed he didn’t score in that period throughout the finals. On the other hand, finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki dropped 26 points.
The stats continued to be told.
Backtrack to game six in the Miami-Dallas series. In eight minutes with James on the bench, the Heat scored 21 points and outscored the Mavericks by 14. With LBJ on the court, Dallas outscored Miami by 24.
But that is the past. It has no relevance whatsoever in the upcoming Miami-Oklahoma City series.
James’ awesome performances in game six and seven against Boston have provided him with the opportunity to shred the choke tag. It also bestows on his teammates a chance to win a cherished championship ring.
So looking forward, we have two of the world’s best basketball players going head to head. As a lover, player and analyst of the game, I along with many couldn’t have asked for a better match-up.
On Wednesday morning AEST, it will be the MVP versus the runner-up MVP. The three-time NBA MVP versus the three-time NBA scoring champion. King James versus KD35.
The last time the MVP and runner-up MVP met in the finals was when Michael Jordan was named as the MVP and Clyde Drexler finished second. For the omen punters, Jordan’s Bulls were victorious.
The two star-filled sides met twice during the regular season, with each team claiming one win. OKC won game one 103-87 – they smashed the Heat and Kevin Durant torched James. Game two produced something completely different. Miami notched a five-point victory in the second outing – it was a tough match that went down to the wire.
I wrote earlier that the past holds no relevance. I’m sticking with that statement. Those two games were in the regular season – this is the NBA finals. The intensity picks up. The pressure rises. Things change.
The Oklahoma City Thunder plays host to Miami in the first two games of the two-three-two series. It is the first time since the franchise’s relocation from Seattle that they’ve appeared in the finals.
And it will last a minimum six games. The series will also crown the world’s best player. An OKC win means Durant is the best. A Miami victory, you guessed it, King James holds his title. What’s interesting is that the two worked out together pre-season in Akron.
This series, however, despite the previous paragraph, is about more than two great players.
For the Thunder they’ve got Westbrook’s scoring ability, D-Fisher’s experience and knowledge, Harden’s big contributions and spark off the bench, and Perkins’ and Ibaka’s defensive prowess and rebounding ability. One of the most important players for OKC is Thabo Sefolosha – he is a big time stopper. Wade and LeBron will see the number two jersey right on them when on the court.
Miami’s supporting cast is just as strong. Chalmers, Miller and Battier can all knock down the long ball – the latter will be required to step up big defensively, too.
Two other Heat all-stars, Bosh and Wade, must support LBJ in a strong way. For Miami, they’re back for redemption. Wade summed it up best.
“Long, it’s been a long 12 months.”
And in LeBron’s words, “It’s time.”
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