Last year, when the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder punched their tickets to the NBA Finals, NBA fans were fascinated at the mere thought of Kevin Durant and LeBron James squaring off with a championship on the line. And while that series lasted just five games, we may all get another chance to watch these two teams battle it out in the Finals again.
Last year, Oklahoma City rallied from down 2 games to 0 to the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals to get into the NBA Finals and Miami rallied from down 2-1 to the Indiana Pacers in the conference semifinals and from down 3-2 to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Finals.
This year, the two squads are well on their way to another battle in the NBA Finals. James and Durant are in the middle of a huge race for MVP this year, as both are in the middle of career years while guiding their teams to the front of the pack in their conferences.
While Durant and the Thunder have a better record, LeBron and the Heat aren’t having a terrible year either. In fact, both are doing so well that most people are predicting the 2013 NBA Finals to be a rematch between Oklahoma City and Miami.
Oklahoma City dealt James Harden to the Houston Rockets before the season started and as a result, Durant has been more effective, as his stats are skyrocketing. His season averages in assists, rebounds, points, steals and blocks per game are all above his career averages, and the same goes with his shooting: he’s been making 51.6 percent of his field goals, 43 percent of his 3s and 90.3 percent of his free throws.
The Heat have some holes, as they are the NBA’s worst rebounding team. However, they are the NBA’s most talented team, with James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Ray Allen and Mario Chalmers roaming the court and harassing opponents. Bigger teams like the Pacers can beat them up down low, but every team has trouble beating the Heat up top and overall. Plus, Miami could trade for a big man before the deadline, which would vastly improve the team.
Even if Miami doesn’t trade for a big man, they have James grabbing about eight rebounds per game and Bosh helping out down low as well. While it’s not his best strength, James can handle big men, as he is a complete player who is shining more than ever this year in his quest for a second consecutive championship.
Oklahoma City has that same kind of all-around talent with Durant and a very good supporting cast with Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and Kevin Martin. The Thunder have ripped apart the Spurs, their main competitor in the West, recently, and I see them overpowering the Spurs again in the playoffs, when San Antonio’s lack of youth spells its doom for the third consecutive year.
The Los Angeles Clippers have stepped up this year, but Chris Paul can’t carry them all the way, and while I have faith in Jamal Crawford and Blake Griffin, I don’t see the Clippers dethroning the best of the West in the playoffs. In fact, on paper, the Thunder match up better than every team in the West. Obviously, games aren’t won on paper, but I can’t see any teams beating the Thunder before the NBA Finals.
In a separate article, I broke down whether the Heat could be beaten in the East. Miami is a challenging team and while the Pacers and New York Knicks are among a few of the other contenders in the East with the talent to beat the Heat, it will be very hard for either to upstage Miami. The Knicks live and die by the three, and if LeBron can guard Carmelo Anthony well, the Knicks will go down.
Indiana simply does not win games on the road, and they will have to beat the Heat on the road if the two teams face off in the playoffs. That, and the fact that the Heat beat the Pacers last year and look even better this year, make me believe that Miami is going to roll over any team they face. The Heat average 6.2 more PPG (points per game) than their opponents, in contrast to a difference of 2.6 PPG for the Pacers and a 4.8 PPG difference for New York.
Oh, and Oklahoma City averages 9.5 more points per game than their opponents.
Basically, what I’m saying is that Miami and Oklahoma City aren’t going to lose before the NBA Finals. The Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies and Denver Nuggets just don’t match up to the Thunder, and the Spurs will have trouble deep in the playoffs. In addition, Oklahoma City scores more points, gets more rebounds, shoots better from the charity stripe and forces opponents into making less shots than their Texas rivals. The East is a weak conference outside of the lead dogs and none of the followers can take down the lead dog.
On paper, this should lead to a Finals rematch. And when the playoffs go down, it should as well.
No team seems to have what it takes to upstage these two powerhouses, and while there are upsets in the playoffs, it’s hard to beat the best team in the conference in a seven-game series, especially without home-field advantage. Miami and Oklahoma City are NBA powerhouses, and they won’t be beat before the NBA Finals.
And therefore, we will be treated to another championship between Miami and Oklahoma City: the two best teams in the NBA.
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