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Heat at Thunder
Matt: Across the regular season, or the playoffs, the Thunder and Heat have posted similar efficiency numbers. Only one game separated their regular seasons—which of course makes all the difference. Having home court is a big advantage. While the Heat always bring a bevy of matchup problems, the Thunder can create some of their own. If Coach Eric Spoelstra intends to put LeBron James on Kevin Durant for any extended period, I expect to see Durant whipping around hard(ly legal) screens from Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison. After the lockout schedule, and several games playing the full 48, perhaps it will be possible to tire out even LeBron’s legs and leave him shooting flat jumpers late in games—another famous Finals collapse.
Pat: This is the matchup many have wanted to see since the season started as it pits the two best players in the game, players who play the same position, in a series which could change the storylines for either player. The Thunder enter the Finals having dispatched a few tougher teams while Miami spent the majority of their last two rounds without Chris Bosh. Bosh, despite being the third option for the Heat, may be the key to the series with his offensive range which will force the Thunder big men to step out to guard him leaving open paths to the basket for James and Wade. The Thunder have bigger big men, but Ibaka and Perkins (save their 18-20 night) aren’t a consistent threat on offense. Wade will need to do more offensively this series to help take that load off of James and allow him some time to rest on the bench in order to keep him fresh for a long series. This is a Miami team that has been here before and can get points inside and outside while the Thunder are young and in their first Finals and rely much more on outside scoring. Miami has the defensive edge from a team perspective which, when coupled with the torrid play of LeBron James, should give the Heat the overall edge in this series.
The Picks: Matt: Miami in 7. Pat: Miami in 6. Editor’s Note: My pick was Thunder over Heat in 7 from the start. I’ll stick with it.