By Eduardo Maisonet, III / @edthesportsfan
For FOX Deportes
If you wanted your NBA finale to showcase the entity that is “Good vs. Evil” then you got it.
The Miami Heat are everything that’s wrong with the NBA. LeBron’s decision. The Big Three coming together. Everything that is Erik Spolestra’s coaching existence. The jealousy from others for not living in Miami. The beyond fashionably late-ness of the Miami Heat fan base. The Teflon Don-like qualities of Dwyane Wade. The many awkward faces of Chris Bosh. LeBron’s double-sown headband. LeBron’s hairline. LeBron’s $250 shoes. Pat Riley’s hair. Oh, did I mention LeBron’sdecision.
Compare that to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Kevin Durant’s tweet. A team that was organically built through the draft. The Opie Taylor-like quality of Scott Brooks. The appreciation of an NBA superpower spawning in the heartland of America. The greatest fan base maybe in all of American professional sports. James Harden’s beard. Kevin Durant being a mama’s boy. Durant’s jump shot. Durant’s price-sensitive shoes. Russell Westbrook’s emotions. Durant’s humbleness.
Everything that a casual basketball fan would possibly try to hate about a certain team, and all the qualities that a casual basketball fan would possibly try to love about a certain team.
Except there’s just one problem. None of this actually matters when it comes to who will actually win the NBA Finals.
You won’t need to listen to any morning sports talk radio show, read anysnarkyblog (yes, that was definitely gratuitous self-promotion) or watch a show full of talking heads yell at each other to figure out who will win the 2012 NBA Championship.
Nope, you just have to look at who the Oklahoma City Thunder played in their matriculation to the NBA Finals.
Take Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks. The German sharpshooter torched the Thunder, Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison specificially, in last year’s Western Conference Finals. From drives to the rim, to the mid-range jumper, to popping out to three-point range, Dirk daggered the Thunder in five games to make their own way to the NBA Finals. You know how that story ends. (Guaranteed Miami does.) Ibaka’s defensive effort on Dirk in this year’s playoffs was impressive, Nowitzki shot just 44% from the field and only made one three-pointer for the entire series. Oh yeah, the Mavericks got swept. Bosh can’t do anything better than Dirk, and its a task that the Thunder frontline should be able to handle.
Then there was Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers. The shot-making assassin was single-handedly keeping the Lake Show’s hopes and dreams alive in the West Semis. The Thunder’s defensive utilitarian Thabo Sefolosha did his darndest to slow down No. 24, but over time Bryant began to have his way with the Swiss wingman and that the Lakers would be able to swing momentum back in their favor with a game 3 win. Nope. Kevin Durant took his talents in front of Kobe Bryant and his 6’10” wiry frame began to gave Kobe fits. Oh, and the Thunder promptly won the next two games. The matchup with LeBron James should follow a similar strategy, as Sefolosha will probably handle the early responsibility, then Durant will help close the show against “The Kang.”
Finally, there was that series with the San Antonio Spurs. You know, the one where Tony Parker proverbially ran wind sprints up and down the Thunder, getting to the rim at will and making mid-range jumpers whenever he so desired. Poor Russell Westbrook did his best to stay in front of Parker, but to no avail. An effective screen here, a precise cut there, and Tony Parker had a field day. Scott Brooks made a great adjustment by adjusting to a smaller lineup and switching on every ballscreen, but that might not be acceptable in a matchup versus the Heat. James Harden, Westbrook and any other body on the roster will have to keep Wde in front of them. Then good things will happen.
Of course, we haven’t even began to discuss how the Heat are going to stop the Thunder.
This series will hinge on execution, which frankly, neither team is all that great at. However, whoever does it the most, that team will win.
That team will be the Oklahoma City Thunder. In 6 games.