The Miami Heat will be heading back to the NBA Finals for a second consecutive year, while the Oklahoma City Thunder will be making their first trip to the finals as a franchise since relocating from Seattle five years ago.
Many will be watching to see if LeBron can finally win his first NBA Championship, or if Oklahoma City can win its first NBA championship as a franchise. With many people placing their bets on both sides, it is Oklahoma City that holds the dominant hand in this championship series. There are several key cards that OKC holds that will ultimately leave LeBron James without any championships to his name—and an 0-3 record in NBA Finals series.
If there was one thing the Heat had trouble stopping in their series against Boston, it was an aggressive point guard. When Rajon Rondo was an aggressive point guard for Boston, it often yielded greater results for them. But, his aggression ran out in Game 6 and Game 7.
But in OKC, Westbrook is not short on aggression. Westbrook is not hesitant to drive to the basket at any time, and is one of the best attacking point guards in the NBA. While he can be overly aggressive at times, the Heat will have problems closing driving lanes and keeping Westbrook away from the free-throw line.
The Oklahoma City Thunder have what the Boston Celtics did not: a fresh, dangerous scoring threat that comes off the bench in James Harden, who is also the recipient of this year's Sixth Man of the Year award.
Harden's ability to score like a starter coming off the bench will be one of the keys to the game, and will complicate the Heat's task of containing him off of the bench. Exploding onto the scene in the playoffs last year, Harden has made himself known, and provides a change of pace for the Thunder that the Heat themselves do not possess on their roster.
If there's something that OKC has that will push the Heat, it's their big man combo down low in Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka. Both of these players have been instrumental down low for the Thunder throughout these playoffs.
Both of these big men have the size and ability to make life easier for the Thunder in the paint. Bosh has proven to be the only true big man the Heat have that is capable of tying up the opposing team's big man. The only problem is that OKC has two of them, and the Heat don't have consistent enough role players in Joel Anthony or Udonis Haslem to match up with these two.
And of course, we couldn't end this list without mentioning OKC's franchise player: the one and only Kevin Durant.
By himself alone, Durant is the kind of matchup nightmare that Dirk Nowitzki was last year in the championship game against the Heat. Durant is too athletic for Bosh to cover, and has the height advantage over both Lebron James and Dwyane Wade.
Durant loves to turn up his motor in the fourth quarter and is a threat to score from anywhere on the court. He is a big-time scorer and has proven himself against the likes of the upper-class talent of the Western Conference.
The Miami Heat have been praised for their athletic ability, and they excel at getting a lot of points off of transition baskets and running the floor quickly. The Boston Celtics had difficulty stopping this in the long run, and had trouble scoring in transition.
Well, now they face a team that is just as athletic as they are and excels in transition offense.
Russell Westbrook, as noted, is an aggressive guard that loves to push the ball down the floor and is not afraid to drive the ball on a regular basis. OKC also fares better when it comes to running their half-court offense, an area where Miami has been the weakest in the playoffs. Miami has been virtually unchallenged in transition. This time, they'll get a taste of their own medicine against the Oklahoma City Thunder.