NBA fans finally got their ideal match up that they’ve dreamed of watching play out since the very first tip of the 2011-12 season. In two games this season the Thunder and the Heat split the series, with the Thunder winning 103-87 on March 25 and the Heat taking a close 98-93 win in Miami on April 4.
LeBron James and Kevin Durant, the top two MVP vote getters this season, will highlight a series in which the two stars will surely trade shots many times. Russell Westbrook and Dwyane Wade will be fighting for point guard supremacy every single night starting Tuesday. James Harden will be putting up 15 points, five rebounds and three assists per night. And Serge Ibaka will try to claim the paint as his whenever Chris Bosh or other Miami big men bring the ball down low.
There are many more intriguing match ups beside the ones I named above, but the most anticipated and interesting battle will take place between LeBron and Durant. All season long the two superstars would trade places in the MVP and scoring race. James ended up winning his third MVP and Durant winning his third scoring title in a row.
By no surprise both have stepped up big for their teams throughout the playoffs, whether it be by carrying the workload like LeBron or knocking down important late-game shots like Durant. James has averaged 30.8 points, 9.6 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.9 steals and 0.8 blocks while Durant has averaged 27.8 points 7.9 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.3 blocks.
Not too shocking, but both stars have had their playing time increased from the regular season to the playoffs, with James averaging 42.4 minutes (4.9 minutes more than the regular season) and Durant averaging 41.6 minutes (3.0 minutes more than the regular season).
Although the current MVP may be boasting slightly better numbers than Durant that doesn’t take away from the fact that the Thunder have been a much better complete team than the Heat all season long. It’s no different for the playoffs.
Eight Thunder players have played in all 15 games so far this postseason compared to five for the Heat. Out of those five James, Wade (22.9 points) and Mario Chalmers (11.6 points) have all averaged over 10 points. The Thunder have four players averaging double digit points, and those include Durant, Westbrook (21.7 points), Harden (17.6 points) and Ibaka (10.7 points).
Although they have also played in every postseason game, Derek Fisher, Thabo Sefolosha and Kendrick Perkins can make a big impact on the court, each in their individual way. The veteran leadership of Fisher and the fact that he’s been on this stage seven times before will come in handy on and off the court. Sefolosha, who is averaging 1.5 steals this postseason, can help fatigue players like Wade, who is averaging 3.0 turnovers per game, by not letting them out of his sight.
Perkins, along with Ibaka, will play possibly the most pivotal role this Finals as Miami’s lack of a big man, a problem that has bothered them all season, can be a huge advantage for the Thunder. Heat players like Joel Anthony, Dexter Pittman and Ronny Turiaf have either had their roles played down by coach Erik Spoelstra. Bosh being out for their series with the Indiana Pacers and part of the series with the Celtics just made that problem worse.
Right now it’s unknown which star will shine the brightest, which big men will dominate and which pesky guards will get in the heads of their opponents, but one thing is for certain. The NBA Finals are here and it promises to be one of the most exciting series in recent history. Here is the set schedule for all the games, which will be played on ABC:
Game 1: Miami @ Oklahoma City – June 12, 9:00 p.m. (Tuesday)
Game 2: Miami @Oklahoma City – June 14, 9:00 p.m. (Thursday)
Game 3: Oklahoma City @ Miami – June 17, 8:00 p.m. (Sunday)
Game 4: Oklahoma City @ Miami – June 19, 9:00 p.m. (Tuesday)
Game 5: Oklahoma City @ Miami – June 21, 9:00 p.m. (Thursday)
Game 6: Miami @Oklahoma City – June 24, 8:00 p.m. (Sunday)
Game 7: Miami @Oklahoma City – June 26, 9:00 p.m. (Tuesday)