It was the matchup a lot of NBA fans wanted to see – the rising Oklahoma City Thunder (it’s a shame they aren’t the Seattle Supersonics anymore) against the Big Three of the Miami Heat, D-Wade, LeBron and Chris Bosh.
But Bosh is out with a strained abdominal muscle, and even if he is the third-best option of the three behind LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, the dropoff in consistent scoring ability from Bosh to the rest of the Heat roster is significant. So much so that the Heat simply won’t be able to match up with the Thunder or San Antonio Spurs without Bosh, if Miami can even get that far.
To even be in the conversation, the Heat must beat a very stubborn and underrated Indiana Pacers team, and the Pacers are the ones playing with more of purpose after taking a 2-1 series lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals Thursday night.
The Heat looked out of sorts Thursday. Things were so bad that Wade and coach Erik Spoelstra got into it on the bench. Miami is in trouble in this series and has lost the home court advantage. Their big men couldn’t stop Indiana center Roy Hibbert on Thursday, and even if the Heat do make it past the Pacers, this series will take a lot out of them when it comes time to face the well-tested, veteran-led Boston Celtics, who should advance against the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Thunder is in a better position to get to the finals. Kevin Durant is as clutch a player as there is in the NBA. James Harden is a force off the bench and the supporting cast knows their roles well. Guard Russell Westbrook is too quick off the dribble for the Los Angeles Lakers to guard him tightly with consistency, and the Thunder could wrap up its series with L.A. by early next week.
The Thunder is eager to show it belongs in the finals, but OKC should be challenged by a savvy San Antonio Spurs team that has been there before and should take out the upstart Los Angeles Clippers in their series.
Oklahoma City is going to have to be at its best against the Spurs to get to the NBA finals, but it’s looking more and more that it the Thunder get there, the Heat won’t be the team on the other side of the court.
The best teams in the West look a lot stronger than their Eastern Conference counterparts. If the Heat don’t click and get Bosh back soon, the East might not have a team good enough to stop the Thunder or Spurs.
If only LeBron hadn’t made that crazy comment about winning eight championships with the Heat. Already a lightning rod for criticism because of “The Decision,” James stuck his foot in his mouth when he joined the Heat and started boasting about the number of rings Miami would get with the Big Three. He’s a great player, but it’s hard to explain why he doesn’t seem to want the ball at the end of games.
So far, 0-fo-1, with a second failed season staring the Heat in the face.