After a hectic, truncated sprint that was the 2012 NBA season, we’ve finally arrived at our destination.
Oklahoma City and Miami have emerged from their respective conferences, set to do battle in order to decide who will be crowned kings of the NBA.
‘It’s only right,’ LeBron James said of The Finals matchup.
‘It’s only right.’
James was of course talking about the fitting nature of the two-preseason favourites that went on to be the two best teams in the league all season.
It’s a series not short on storylines; Big 3 vs. Big 3, MVP battling Scoring Champion – for the first time since 1997 when Michael Jordan’s Bulls squared off with Karl Malone’s Utah Jazz (the MVP led Bulls won by the way) – and of course, it’s another chance for James to earn his ‘King’ moniker.
WHY THE HEAT WILL WIN:
The reigning league MVP elevated his play to a whole different level these playoffs, seemingly on a mission to one-up himself at every turn. Against the Indiana Pacers in Game Four, he turned in a 40 point, 18 rebounds and 9 assist performance that many hailed as one of the greatest playoff performances.
Then, facing elimination against the Celtics in Boston for Game Six, King James torched the C’s to the tune of 45 points, 15 rebounds and 5 assists. The Heat won the game to stave of elimination, and then finished the job on their South Beach home floor.
The Thunder might have the edge from an overall perspective, but James is the one player in the NBA that can dominate a game in all facets of the game.
We can assume that he’ll continue his 30+/9/5 averages, but his play at the other end of the floor will define this series.
Upon first taking his talents to South Beach, the question was how LeBron would fit into Dwyane Wade’s team.
Not only is it now LeBron’s team in Miami, it is LeBron’s league.
WHY THE THUNDER WILL WIN:
While, their opponents seemed to have trademarked the Big 3 analogy, Oklahoma City quietly built a monumental trio of their own.
Together, they averaged a shade below 70 points per game during the regular season, and only got better once the playoffs began.
And, despite their tender age, the Thunder has been building to this moment for the past three seasons, ever since they pushed the eventual-champion Lakers in the 2010 playoffs.
The completion of their evolution from upstart challenger to powerhouse is evident in the fact that in these playoffs alone, they vanquished the sides that won every Western Conference crown since 1998 (Dallas, Los Angeles and San Antonio).
Oklahoma City is on the path to becoming one of the most dominant dynasties in the modern era of the NBA.
But, as the saying goes, the first step is always the toughest. Given what they’ve already accomplished in 2012, expect them to better the Miami Heat for the first of what could be many crowns.
Miami’s Mario Chalmers.
Chalmers has come along way in his short time with the Heat, considering that at the beginning of the “Big 3” situation, he wasn’t considered up to the task of being their starting point guard.
And in reality, he probably wasn’t. But his growth this year is one of the reasons Miami are in a better position than last year to try and take out the title.
However, the test facing Chalmers against the Thunder is the biggest he has faced all postseason.
Battling Russell Westbrook will require that the former Kansas guard perform at his best every minute he is on the floor.
From a defensive standpoint, he will be tasked with corralling Westbrook on his own for the most part, and won’t be able to rely on Dwyane Wade covering the Thunder star the way he did with Rajon Rondo against Boston.
If Chalmers lets Westbrook off the leash, the Thunder will be at their free flowing, rampant best.
On offense, Super Mario needs to make sure that – when given the chance – he steps up.
At times these playoffs we have seen Chalmers contribute heavily when some of Miami’s higher profile stars have been struggling, and he’ll need to continue that.
And, of course, he is no stranger to making big shots in title games.
It’s hard to remember a Finals series that has been tougher to call.
But, ultimately the experience from making the finals last year – and the subsequent motivation due to their failure – tips the scale to Miami.
Ever since they trudged off the court last season, watching as confetti fell on the Mavericks, a title has been the pass-mark for the Heat.
They’ll win this year, but it’ll be incredibly close.
Buckle up; we’re in for something special in the coming weeks.
Miami in 7.