Tuesday, June 12, 2012

NBA Finals Preview/Prediction 2012: Heat vs. Thunder

By Spencer Pyke & Adam Maher

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Spencer's Prediction: For the first time ever in the four major sports covered here on thesportzbroz.com (baseballbasketballfootball, and hockey), neither of the two teams competing for their league's respective championship's name ends in "s."

Heat vs. Thunder.

I know, it has nothing to do with the series, but I think it's an interesting tidbit.

Now that I got that out of the way...

Wow. The Thunder made me look dumb last series, eliminating the what-seemed-at-the-time invincible Spurs in six games and now face my beloved Heat. Most of the talk, as it should be, revolves around the 23-year-old, three-time scoring champ and the 27-year-old, three-time MVP who each have zero rings. When the smoke is settled and all is said and done, one will achieve the ultimate glory while the other will fade away into yet another summer pondering what could have been.

That’s what makes the NBA Finals so riveting, the pressure, and we all remember how the Heat handled it last year.

Yes, Miami has grown together and shown a tremendous amount of resiliency in the face of adversity thus far in the playoffs, but OKC will be their toughest test yet. Young, explosive, talented and hella fun to watch from front row to the bleacher seats in your best friend's living room; the Thunder are making their first appearance in the Finals since moving to the mid-west and yep, you guessed it, are the favorite to win it all after knocking off the Mavericks, Lakers and Spurs. (Speaking of passing the conference torch, here you go, Thunder).

Of course, Durantula versus The Brontosaurus is the main story line, but there are other intriguing match-ups as well. The dubs, Westbrook and Wade, both teams' second-in-charge, will likely be matched up against each other. Then there is the battle down low. Who will guard Perk and I-block-a? A Bosh that’s not at 100%? Joel Anthony who got no burn in the ECFs? A shorter Haslem? All of these questions will come center stage tonight as the best two teams in the NBA face off in one of the most anticipated Finals in recent memory.

Heading into tonight’s tip-off, I can see why the Heat drew the five-point underdog line this morning. OKC has home court, their big three has played lights out, they play great team ball under head coach Scotty Brooks, or should I say, Breckin Meyer, and ESPN's Timmy Wegwer picked them to win on Sports Center.

Believe it or not, I think this will all work in the Heat’s favor. The Thunder has never been here, yet seem to be the overwhelming favorite. Lebron, Wade, Bosh and company have faced this pressure, while Perk and Fisher may be the only ones to suit up in an NBA Finals prior to this evening for OKC.

The real winners this week are obviously the NBA fans, who are now treated to an electrifying Finals match-up seven months after this very same season looked doomed for cancellation.

There are only three sure-fire guarantees heading into this series: It will be damn near the best NBA Finals in the past decade, one NBA Legend will raise the Larry O’Brien for the first time and seeing glasses as accessories will be in abundance during pre & post game activities.

As for my prediction, one line from Chris Rock’s "Head of State" sums it all up…

Couldn't have said it better myself, Coolio.

The King is crowned in six…

Adam's Prediction: Exactly three months ago yesterday, I wrote this:
The Miami Heat will beat the OKC Thunder in the Finals.
LeBron, now at the quintessential man-making age of 27, will finally become one this postseason. Unlike most American men, whose coming of age consists of landing that first big client, publishing that first paper, or buying that first car, LeBron's coming of age will be in the form of his first NBA title ring. He will average just as many points per game throughout the Finals (27), thus beginning his ring-bearing reign over Kevin Durant and the rest of the league as basketball's finest athlete of all time for years to come.
But throughout the playoffs, in predicting each Eastern Conference match-up, I had my doubts about the Heat because of Chris Bosh's injury. I actually picked Indiana's balanced offense to beat Miami in six games. I thought that without Chris Bosh, Dywane Wade would have trouble with double teams, and with D-Wade wrapped up, LeBron James would have too much lumber to lug, and with LeBron James worn and torn, Shane Battier and Mario Chalmers and Udonis Haslem would be forced to shoot contested jump shots.

And we all know what happens when those three shoot contested jump shots.

Plus, I was gassed on myself for correctly predicting that Derrick Rose would get hurt (sorry, D) and the the 76ers would win in the first round. I admit I got a bit wild.

But lo and behold, guys like Mike Miller dropped three trey-balls in a row multiple times at pivotal moments late in the Indiana series, and Danny Granger once again failed to enter his name in the conversation I was hoping he'd end up in: this one.

And now, as both s-less teams ride into the series relatively healthy, and as Spencer so poignantly mentioned, the marquee match-up is LeBron James vs. Kevin Durant. And hasn't it been that way all season? It's almost as if we entered a new era of NBA basketball this year, with tonight being the solidification. For the first time in years, we have two guys who are not only great friends, they are about to embark on a journey of NBA Finals match-ups against each other for five years minimum.

Seriously, I'm no basketball guru. I don't read every book and every article that pumps out every day on the game. I might write from time to time for a certain website known as SLAMonline.com, but in no way do I consider my knowledge to be better than your average basketball fan - better than your average writer is a different story - but basketball? No, we're all in this together. Writing about it on a sick website is just an awesome perk of the life I lead and the decisions I've made.

So, how could I have so confidently known three months and a day ago that the Thunder would be playing the Heat in the NBA Finals tonight?

Because LeBron James and Kevin Durant are THAT GOOD.

Listen, I love you, Kobe. You ruled for the last decade. Heck, I just got off the phone with Jeremy Lamb two hours ago and he told me you were his "idol" growing up. But it's over, Mamba. You're done. The closest to another ring you'll ever get is if Steven A. Smith sells his 600,000 twitter followers to facebook without ESPN knowing, buys the Heat and trades his left arm to put you in the same jersey as LeBron down in South Beach because you're an "assassin."

It'll sell ESPN radio ads, Steve, but it ain't gunna happen, bro.

This new era of basketball we are entering tonight has me so excited I could run a damn marathon after Game 1 starting at midnight, finishing sometime next week in a field in Northwest Jersey.

Finally, we have Magic vs. Bird again in the NBA!

So suck it, Broadway!

Just kidding, anything Broadway is amazing. Did you know the minimum weekly salary for a Broadway dancer is $1,215? Pretty good guap, bro. Be about it.

The LeBron vs. Durant draw is very much like the Bird vs. Magic draw, but individually, the players couldn't be more different than their elders's match-up.

Durant is surrounded by talent and is the best pure scorer in the NBA. If I was voting, I would have made Serge Ibaka Defensive Player of the Year, Kevin Durant MVP, kept James Harden as 6th Man of the Year, and invented some new shit for Russell Westbrook. Throw in Perkins, Fisher, Scott Brooks as a coach - holy crap, this team is unreal.

James on the other hand, is an absolute man-child. I still have day dreams about when he scored the Cav's last 29 points against the Pistons in '07 to take Game 5 in the ECFs (48, 9 and 7 as a 22-year-old). Now that he's without the worst supporting cast in NBA history, he's in the finals again, and his partner in crime, The Flash, is ready for blood.

I still feel the same way about Bosh - if he doesn't play well or gets injured, the Heat are done. But as long as he makes his 18 footers, this series will go down to the wire in Game 7.

I really, really want to say that the Thunder will win this series, but I've got to stick with my prediction from three months ago.

It's by a Coolio dreadlock, but the Heat take it in seven.

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