When the Miami Heat take to the court against the Oklahoma City Thunder, all eyes will be on the teams' respective stars, LeBron James and Kevin Durant. However, the key to winning the 2012 NBA Finals will come down to the play of Russell Westbrook and Dwyane Wade.
The two teams competing in the finals are oddly similar. They both have a premier superstar flanked by two additional superstars. They love to apply defensive pressure and create fast-break opportunities from turnovers.
The series should turn on which offense is better able to control the ball and limit turnovers, which clearly favors Westbrook and the Thunder.
Oklahoma City has shown patience and control on offense during the playoffs. Westbrook is averaging 21.7 PPG in the playoffs, while turning the ball over just 2.3 times per game.
Heat PG Mario Chalmers will have a difficult matchup against Westbrook. Chalmers is a tad shorter and not as quick as Westbrook, so he will need some help.
Wade was assigned to Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo for much of the Eastern Conference Finals and completely took him out of large stretches of play.
The Heat would be well-served matching him against Westbrook. Wade is better suited to contain him at the perimeter and keep up with him by fighting through screens.
Wade has been somewhat maligned at times this season, but he can still defend (and score). If he can stay with Westbrook, it will allow the rest of the defense to focus on creating turnovers.
One advantage the Heat has is that Chalmers isn't relied upon to score points. Westbrook's defensive skills will be severely mitigated, unless he's asked to defend Wade. With Serge Ibaka and Durant waiting inside, Wade won't likely find success with penetrating the Thunder defense.
Matching Westbrook with Wade on the outside could negate him as a scoring threat.
It will be easy to focus on Durant and James, as they are two of the league's best. Both players figure to score often, but their points will likely cancel each other out.
Unless one of those two gets very hot or very cold, look outside for what is transpiring with Wade and Westbrook. Their play promises to set up an exciting finals, with Westbrook and the Thunder holding the advantage.