This is going to be extremely exciting. The Thunder crowd is going to be absolutely bonkers tonight and that will hopefully be a huge boost to the Thunder. This whole series will come down to the production of each teams respective big three’s and their supporting players. Before I go into this I would just like to go down in whatever history I end up in that the Thunder are going to win in 7 games.
Coming into this series the Thunder look invincible. They won 4 in a row against a team that was considered unstoppable after winning 20 in a row. They are dangerous and have proved themselves as real winners. The Heat came off a strange series vs the Celtics. It was very up and down, they had several moments where they looked invincible and several where they looked like headless chicken running around on the court. The Heat can’t do that, they can’t have off nights, or moments where they’re tuned out because the Thunder obviously aren’t fazed by any pressure. No game is too big and you can count on the Thunder not to have any off nights.
Before we focus on game 1 specifically, in general the Thunder need to take advantage of their strength down low. Perkins has had moments where he’s produced a post game, and Ibaka should definitely take over Joel Anthony and Chris Bosh. If they can attract double teams down low, or just produce down low it takes pressure off of perimeter guys like Durant, Harden and Westbrook, and that will be the difference against the Heat because Bosh is more of a finesse guy and can’t post up Ibaka and Perkins so they will have something the Heat don’t. The Thunder also have the advantage of the bench. They have consistent role players, as supposed to the Heat’s supporting guys who hit some threes from time to time and do almost nothing else. Every guy has to continue producing like they have throughout the postseason because they could win with their second unit. In addition, they have to try and attack the paint as much as possible. The Thunder have a bad habit of settling for jumpers from time to time, if they get a bad bounce or the shot goes long the Heat are going to be breaking. They have to limit the fast-break opportunities for the Heat. The Thunder, especially Durant have to attack and try get the big men in foul trouble because of the lack of depth, and a semi-healthy Bosh. The Thunder also have to continue to play well at the end of games, and well under pressure. They have it all figured out in late game situations and the Heat don’t so if they can exude composure in the 4th quarter that alone will be a huge advantage. I think the Thunder have so many good interior defenders that James will be finding it harder to attack the rim all the time, and will settle for more jumpers. When Garnett was out of the game he had his way inside against the Celtics, the Thunder have to make sure that doesn’t happen. They have to come out aggressive to set the tone down low. The Thunder also have the underrated advantage of Sefolosha on the defensive end. He is going to bother Wade like crazy, in a postseason where he’s already had some offensive troubles from time to time. Sefolosha has guarded star players in every series and will pester Wade like a fly buzzing around his room in the dark. That should definitely bother Wade enough to maybe slow him down and keep him off stride just a bit.
The Heat on the other hand need to make Durant play defense. He is so long and often lurks along the perimeter and uses his wingspan to block shots, or poke away some steals. They should get Lebron into post-up situations vs Durant because if Durant has the length, Lebron has the strength. Not only can Lebron take advantage there but it forces Durant to focus on man to man defense instead of lurking or helping most of the time. I think Wade needs to get going very early, and he should be Spoelstra’s first priority offensively. When he is hot everybody else flows off of him. He has had a very poor series of 1st half’s throughout the postseason and if he can get easy shots early then he will get comfortable early. If he has a night off as he has in 1st halfs, then the Thunder will take over because if one member of the Big 3 is down the other team still has an effective big 3 to counter. They absolutely need to their bench to step up. Battier has been playing well, Norris Cole has played great basketball, Haslem has always been great but other then those three their bench is awful. The Thunder will step all over them if they don’t produce so that’s an essential thing. Lebron especially has to remember the attitude he came into game 5 with and have that same energy every night of the Finals. There is no room to not be that energized in the NBA finals. When he is aggressive and in a scorers mentality he is unstoppable and the Heat therefore, become unstoppable. He can’t be soft, and not attack the rim no matter how hard it may be for him. Wade as well. They both have to be tuned in.
All in all, I think the Thunder will win this series because their bench is a lot stronger. They have home-court advantage and none of their big three has a disadvantage against any defenders on the Heat. Durant averaged 29 points against the Heat this season and can handle Lebron due to his length. Westbrook can handle Chalmers and the whole Heat defense easily due to his quickness, and his lethal jump shot off pick and rolls. He averaged a steady 20.5 points a game during the regular season against Miami. James Harden has a size advantage over Wade and is a great playmaker, and playmakers can play against every team. He averaged 15.5 points against Miami coming off the bench this season. Lebron and Wade will play their games and both average 25+, Lebron will probably get 30+ against the Thunder but Bosh will have more trouble because of the bigger and stronger defenders guarding him. He only averaged 15 ppg against the Thunder in the regular season, the Heat can’t beat the Thunder with only 15 a game from the third of their Big 3.
In game 1, specifically the Thunder need to use the especially rowdy crowd to their advantage and use them as fuel to get them a W. Quick stat, they are 8-0 at home in the postseason. It’s dangerous territory for the Heat to come into and they should be frightened. Both teams need to set the tone and that comes from the production of the Big 3. This will be interesting to see which teams Big 3 comes out attacking first.