OKLAHOMA CITY, May 10, 2012 — Two years ago when LeBron James chose to take his talents to South Beach, he, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh had a pep rally in Miami where James famously said, “Not one. Not two. Not three. Not four. Not five. Not six. Not seven..,” referring to how many championships this group might win. To get to “not seven,” you need to get to one.
James and the Heat will get another chance to do that this year by taking on the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA Finals. James has famously been criticized for not being a clutch player while being the undisputed best basketball player in the world.
James has had an excellent playoffs so far, most notably Game 6 against Boston when he wore the expression of a zombie but scored 45 points and had 15 rebounds. That stat line had only been accomplished in the post season only once before (Wilt Chamberlain).
As good as James and the Heat have looked at times, they have been left for dead just as many. The Heat got through the Knicks with ease, only losing one game, but were down 2-1 to the Pacers at one point and looked like elimination was imminent. The Heat downed Indiana to earn another series against their nemesis the Boston Celtics.
Once again they were counted out, losing Game 5 on their home floor to go down 3-2. The rest is history, and Miami is in the Finals for the second year in a row.
The Thunder have had a somewhat different road to the championship round, beating every Western Conference Champion since 1999 in the Dallas Mavericks, LA Lakers and San Antonio Spurs.
First they did it by sweeping the defending champion Mavericks in four games. Dallas, however, did not have several corner-pieces from their title like Tyson Chandler and JJ Barea. The Lakers posed a slightly more challenging series, defeating the Thunder once.
The Spurs looked like one of the greatest teams of all time. They won the first two games in the series giving San Antonio a 20 game win streak. Oklahoma City bounced back winning four in a row and the series.
The edge for opponents beaten goes to the Thunder. The Heat defeated a better Boston team last year in five, and this year it took seven. Also James was unbelievable last year in the playoffs but wasn’t consistent enough in the Finals to beat the Mavericks.
It should be pointed out, though, that Chris Bosh was hurt for most of the Pacers series and eased into the Boston series.
The Thunder seem very similar to the Mavericks of last year. Up tempo team that got through the early rounds fairly dominantly. Oklahoma City has a not as good as Chandler post presence in Serge Ibake and Kendrick Perkins. But Ibaka was first team All Defense and Perkins has a ring already with Finals experience. James Harden now off the bench brings energy like Jason Terry did for the Mavs. Russell Westbrook can fill up the stat sheet anytime.
Durant has been ever bit as good as James in the post season. The Thunder have home court advantage and have yet to lose on at the Chesapeake Energy Arena. The Heat could win in Oklahoma City, but it seems unlikely they could win twice. That means the Thunder have to win one game in Miami.
In 2011 when the Heat defeated the Celtics the Heat celebrated like that kid who got a Nintendo 64 on Christmas in that Youtube video. This postseason after beating the Celtics, the Heat had dance party in the locker room. Too much, too soon again?
The Heat lost one game in round one. Two games in round two. Three games in round three….
Prediction: Thunder over Heat in six.
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