This is the series the NBA was hoping for as soon as the lockout was over. Two teams who will make up for the lost two months in November/December. Two teams in which have some of the most marketable players the NBA has seen in a long time. A team that has promised so much and has yet to deliver and on the other hand a team that has taken their talents to a whole new level over the last two seasons. The Oklahoma City Thunder will host the Miami Heat in a best of seven NBA Final Series beginning on Wednesday.
As I've done with previous series I'm going to preview the match-ups and give my verdict.
Point Guard: Russell Westbrook v Mario Chalmers.
As I said with the last series, Chalmers can't stop any good point guard and this is no different. His confidence will be riding low as Rondo ran rings around him all series. Rusty does the same here. Westbrook is too quick and also has a jumpshot that Rondo doesn't have. LeBron may have to take turns with Chalmers in guarding him. There is no harm in putting Chalmers on Sefolosha. I can see this happening a fair bit actually. Westbrook needs to be smarter in this series and really limit turnovers and bad shots as Miami are lethal on the fastbreak.
VERDICT: Westbrook no question and is a massive contender for MVP.
Shooting Guard: Thabo Sefolosha v Dwayne Wade
This should be a great contest if they guard each other. We saw that Wade struggled in the Boston Series against the length of Pietrus and Ray Allen hassling him all game long. Thabo has that length which could trouble Wade. If Wade does guard Thabo he could be saving energy for the offensive end. Thabo isn't a massive offensive threat unless connecting on open three's. Wade is going to have to be much better in this series against the Thunder. He also needs to stop bitching to the refs. All series against the Celtics he was seen complaining to the refs while Boston scored in transition.
VERDICT: Wade just for his god given talent. He isn't playing his best basketball at the moment and he will need to for the Heat to steal an away game.
Small Forward: Kevin Durant v LeBron James
VERDICT: LBJ just for his ability to be brilliant on both ends of the floor. In no means am I saying he is better as I love KD's game. I would have the ball in KD's hands in the last five minutes any day of the week over LBJ.
Power Forward: Serge Ibaka v Chris Bosh
Yes Chris Bosh will be starting from now on after that game seven performance. He will have a much more athletic defender guarding him now though. Ibaka can defend out to the three point line with no problems. He will force Bosh to shoot over a hand at all times. He will also be a major deterrent to LBJ and Wade getting to the rim. Ibaka must not get into foul trouble in this series. It could hurt the Thunder big time. They do have Collison coming off the bench who is also very good at defending his opponent. Bosh will have to make his outside shot and continue to bring that passion to the court every night for the Heat to win away from home.
VERDICT: Serge Ibaka is a big key to the Thunders defence and keeping LBJ and Wade outside of the paint.
Centre: Kendrick Perkins v Udonis Haslem
I have no idea who starts in this position for the Heat. Perkins may even be defending Bosh at some point. I think Perkins is like Ibaka, the rock in the Thunders defence. He will also use his size in the post on offence. This could free up their outside shooters if his baby hook is falling. I think the Thunder need to make his presence felt on offence early. If it's not working then Brooks will have to make a decision if to keep him in the game or get Collison in. Haslem has been a little all over the place in these playoffs. His outside jumpshot hasn't been as reliable as it's been in the past and his defence has been garbage. Haslem is going to have to pull his finger out for the Thunder big man to respect his jumpshot and not be a target for the Thunder's offence.
VERDICT: Perkins. His strength on both offence and defence could be a telling story in this Finals.
Sixth Man: James Harden v Shane Battier
Harden has been amazing for the Thunder for the past two seasons. The Heat are going to have to work really hard to stop him. Wade or James could put their hand up. If they do they are going to have to spend a lot of energy running around after him. If Spoelstra puts Mike Miller or James Jones on him they will get torched. His ability in crunch time has been phenomenal. Shane Battier was phenomenal on the offensive end against the Celtics. He was underdone on defence as Garnett was just too big and too strong. He hit some monster threes when Miami needed them most. He also surprised me with his ability to put the ball on the floor and find an open man. I wonder how long this is going to keep up. If he does it will help LBJ and Wade enormously.
VERDICT: James Harden's ability to tear a game apart is enough for me. However Battier's ability to lock up Durant could also be a telling tale in this series.
I can't wait to see how this series pans out. The Thunder fans are amazing and I can't see Miami stealing one of the first two games. Miami will have have to go home and hold court for all three games. I can't see that happening unless LeBron goes for 40 a night!
VERDICT: OKC win this series in Six and Westbrook gets MVP.