Finals Pick

by - June 10, 2012 - - 1 Comment »

I know games aren’t played on paper. But this paper looks spectacular. LeBron-Durant! Westbrook-Wade! Harden-Bosh! The only matchup that doesn’t really work for a promo is Spoelstra-Brooks. My pick in this one actually comes down to a star player who won’t suit up for either team. His name is Rajon Rondo.

Rondo was a basketball genius against Miami. He saw things develop before they happened and anticipated the next move of the defense as if he was prescient. It was a joy to watch. But as the Heat move on to their second Finals in as many years, it also told me something.

Boston knows how to play against them. They just do. With Rondo being the chief proponent. I’m not one of those guys that crushes Russell Westbrook constantly for being the type of player he is (to me, no two players in the league are more similar than Westbrook and Derrick Rose). He is a tenacious, Tasmanian devil of an attacker. However, he does not dissect the defense like the point guard of the Celtics, the one who seemingly gives the Heat more problems than anybody else in the league. (Over the past two seasons Westbrook has shot just 31% against Miami.)

The Celtics also know how to play Miami defensively. Mostly because they have faced LeBron James and Dwyane Wade on multiple occasions but also because they are a superior defense overall. A defense ultimately that the Heat’s talent, and the talents of the best player on the planet were eventually able to overwhelm anyway.

Oklahoma City does not have that kind of defense. The Heat do. The Thunder have actually been just 9th in playoff defensive efficiency. They didn’t shut the Spurs down (San Antonio scored at least 98 points in all but one game in the Western Conference Finals), as much as the Spurs simply couldn’t handle them on the other end. Miami has already faced a tougher D than what they will see in the Finals. The Thunder have not.

Plus, OKC plays the type of style Miami wants to, a transition game. The only difference being that the Thunder led the NBA in turnover rate in the regular season. What if the Heat are able to make that number reappear and LeBron and Wade do their X-Men thing in the open floor?

Now, this is not to say that the Thunder don’t have some serious advantages head-to-head in this series. Their size could clearly be a problem. Kendrick Perkins is bigger than anyone Miami will put on the floor and Serge Ibaka is a rim protector of the highest order. Additionally, I’m not sure how the Heat corral James Harden’s ability to create and the explosive offense Oklahoma City can deploy with he, Westbrook and Durant on the floor simultaneously.

However, ultimately, a couple other factors sway me back on the side of South Beach. One being the return of a healthy Chris Bosh. He adds another dimension to that team and can help pull the Thunder bigs away from the paint defensively, the way he did Tyson Chandler in round one and the way he impacted the Celtics defense in game seven. The other factor is obvious, LeBron James. As great as Kevin Durant is, I believe there is a gap between he and LeBron. And the two of them will be matched up quite a bit.

If Durant’s game has a weakness (nitpicking at this point), it is that sometimes if a defender is physical with him, they can deny him the catch. He can’t score if he doesn’t have the ball. This has happened at some crucial times in the past (you know, the ones where talking heads oversimplify things and just blame Westbrook). I can envision it happening again here with James draped all over him down the stretch of contests.

I heard a lot of people hand the title to the winner of the West before the Conference Finals even wrapped. And the Thunder have opened up as the favorites to take home the trophy. I’m going the other way. I think the team everybody loves to hate gets it done and the anti-clutch, ringless LeBron narrative finally dies an ugly death.

Heat in six.

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One Response to “Finals Pick”

  1. Jsnwwf says:

    I dont know, man. That OKC crowd is vicious.

    I picked Thunder in 6 because of Miami’s lack of depth at Center, but I’m hoping for this “Lebron cant win” talk to end.

    Ibaka vs Bosh and Chalmers vs Harden are the keys to who wins.

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