The NBA season started on christmas day.
And now it ends with Christmas in June.
You had to know this was coming. If fact, you could see it developing a couple of years ago.
And with Magic/Bird being remixed in LeBron/Durant, we could potentially see this for quite some time to come. But with the first of the Finals match-up between these two players, and these to teams, here are some keys and things to consider for the series.
The Keys for the Thunder:
1) Make LeBron a facilitator instead of a scorer.
17-7-7 would be a godsend. 24-10-7 would be great. But really, anything less than 34 and 11 would be acceptable.
2) Get LeBron off the post/mid-range wing.
Make him take contested threes or challenge the trees down low.
3) Attack Wade offensively and defensively.
Send double teams at him and let Westbrook and Harden take turns at isolations.
4) Make Bosh create for himself.
Can he shoot over Ibaka?
5) Keep games close down the stretch.
At this stage in the game, is it possible the heat still don't know who to give the ball to at the end of games?
The Keys for the Heat:
1) Get into the body of Kevin Durant.
Don't give him a pocket, don't let him get comfortable. Be physical and make him work.
2) Make Westbrook beat you with jumpers.
Preferably from three. But certainly more than Durant and Harden
3) Keep Ibaka and Perkins off the offensive glass.
Can't give a talented team multiple shot attempts and can't let these guys get easy buckets
4) Keep Harden from making timely threes.
Force him to drive right and shoot going left.
5) Force turnovers and get buckets in transition.
What ever happened to the uptempo Heat team that started the season? Any chance of seeing some full court press?
A couple fo things to consider:
1) The Thunder's run to the Finals was surely impressive. Yes the names of the teams they beat make for good headlines, but really, it was how they beat them. They seem to be at their best during the most crucial moments of the game and always seem to make the big plays down the stretch.
But, was the Heat's run not as impressive if not more? Say what you want about the Lakers, but Indiana had a better record during the regular season - and Miami beat them with essentially two players. Say what you want about the Spurs and Tony Parker, but the Celtics also had one of the best records in the NBA after the all-star break and at this point, is there a better NBA playoff point guard than Rajon Rondo?
Yes, the Thunder's ability to come from behind with late game heroics have been amazing. But, have they had to go into a game 4 on the road already down 2-1? Or, have they been faced with elimination down 3-2 and gone into one of the more historic arenas and hardest places in the NBA to win......and still win?
2) LeBron James and Kevin Durant are evenly matched. But has KD ever faced as much pressure as LeBron the past two years? In these playoffs? In the past week? Ironically enough, the determining factors between the two may be LeBron's offense (especially in the clutch) and KD's defense (he was able to hold Kobe in check during the 4th).
3) Russell Westbrook is an all-NBA point guard. But would you take him over Dwyane Wade?
4) Will James Harden have more of an offensive advantage over Shane Battier than Chris Bosh over Serge Ibaka?
5) The Miami Heat are surely underdogs. But is that a bad thing for them? Is being the favorite a good thing for OKC?
6) OKC's youth may actually be the best thing they have going for them. Hard to succumb to the pressure of the NBA Finals if you don't know any better.
7) And finally, there is a bunch of talk out there that OKC is hungrier than Miami. I find that hard to believe. After what happened last year, you don't think the Heat have been yearning for another opportunity? You don't think LeBron has waited a whole year for this? You think he's going to let this opportunity slip away again? Maybe LeBron by himself isn't enough for the Heat to win, but you can be fairly sure he is going to be more than willing to try this time around.
I won't make a prediction.
But I'll make some statements.
LeBron has paid his dues. On any given night Durant can be better than him. KD is surely more skilled offensively...... unless we get the Eastern Conference Finals game 6 LeBron. And when locked in, LeBron has the ability to dominate every aspect of the game. Maybe OKC has a deeper and better balanced team. But, when you have the best player in the world on your side - and he plays like the best player in the world - that makes up for a lot.
In the Playoffs thus far LeBron, a "subpar" Wade, and an injured Bosh go for 68 points a game. While a firing-on-all-cylinders Durant, Westbrook, and Harden go for...... 68 points a game. Look it up.
I'm gonna say in the Finals, LeBron, Wade, and Bosh will go for 75-80 a game while Durant, Westbrook, and Harden will go for 70. And that may be the difference. Are you gonna tell me Ibaka, Perkins, Sefolosha, Fisher, and Collins are that much better than Haslem, Battier, Miller, Chalmers, and Anthony? Are you gonna tell me that the Thunder's defense is better than Miami's?
I guess we'll just have to wait and see.
But for now, just sit back and relax, and enjoy the show.