2012 NBA Finals: Miami Heat vs. Oklahoma City Thunder Player-by-Player Breakdown

Joel C. Cordes@@bballJoelNBA Associate EditorJune 12, 2012

2012 NBA Finals: Miami Heat vs. Oklahoma City Thunder Player-by-Player Breakdown

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    Matchups mean everything when it comes to the basketball championship, but the 2012 NBA Finals have especially intriguing story lines at every single position.

    First of all, this title series features four of the league's top 11 players. That's not even mentioning Chris Bosh (a perennial All-Star) and James Harden (6th Man of the Year)!

    Better yet, LeBron James and Kevin Durant are clearly the NBA's two best. The MVP and the league scoring champ will face off against each other? This is every NBA fan's wildest dream!

    Yet it doesn't stop there. Whether it's the rest of the starting fives, the first subs off the bench or the deep reserves, this evenly-matched tilt has a different facet to explore at every turn.

    With a look at each positional matchup, along with the key regular-season stats, you'll change your mind numerous times as to which team has the overall advantage. It's going to be a great 2012 NBA Finals...

Point Guard: Mario Chalmers vs. Russell Westbrook

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    Mario Chalmers: 9.8 PPG, 3.5 APG, 1.5 SPG, 2.2 TO

    Russell Westbrook: 23.6 PPG, 5.5 APG, 1.7 SPG, 3.6 TO

    Mario Chalmers had a ton of trouble trying to slow down Rajon Rondo in the Eastern Conference finals. Guarding Russell Westbrook is not going to be any easier. 

    Westbrook's ability to blow by defenders, attack the rim, push the tempo and play pesky defense are all clear advantages versus Chalmers, even though Mario is decent at those things too.

    Chalmers has never been afraid to take big shots, and he won't back down from this challenge. However, his best-case scenario is simply to keep Westbrook from going off for more than 25 points on any given night.

    ADVANTAGE: Oklahoma City Thunder

Shooting Guard: Dwyane Wade vs. Thabo Sefolosha

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    Dwyane Wade: 22.1 PPG, .497 FG%, .268 3P%, 1.7 SPG

    Thabo Sefolosha: 4.8 PPG, .432 FG%, .437 3P%, 0.9 SPG

    Thabo Sefolosha is lanky, aggressive and a resilient defender, but like Chalmers with Westbrook, he's going to be holding on for dear life against Dwyane Wade.

    His best bet is daring Wade to shoot from outside. Unfortunately, playing off the Miami Heat star then allows a full head of steam which is nearly impossible to stop.

    Wade's ability to fill up the box score, especially with his 4.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.3 blocks per game, means he can swing the series with more than just a scoring outburst.

    Sefolosha's job is merely to start quarters off on the right foot before James Harden arrives, but he'll only be able to slow Dwyane Wade for so long.

    ADVANTAGE: Miami Heat

Small Forward: LeBron James vs. Kevin Durant

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    LeBron James: 27.1 PPG, .531 FG%, .362 3P%, 7.9 RPG, 6.2 APG, 1.9 SPG

    Kevin Durant: 28 PPG, .496 FG%, .387 P%, 8.0 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.3 SPG

    The headlining matchup is a dead heat when it comes to scoring. Bank on seeing at least one iconic, career-defining performance from both LeBron James and Kevin Durant. Here's to hoping it happens in the same contest, creating one of those moments that will live on NBA Classics forever.

    Durant and James will guard each other for long portions of this series. Yet, expect both teams to throw multiple defenders at these stars, trying to keep their leaders fresh while wearing down the other.

    Both guys can drop 40 points as an afterthought, while boarding with noticeable frequency. Durant will be more consistently efficient from outside, but James has the slight edge inside and via transition.

    Whichever player wins the ring will have the war, regardless of who notches more individual battle victories. There's no question that these are the league's two best, but for now, LeBron can fill up the rest of the stat sheet in greater quantities. 

    ADVANTAGE: Miami Heat

Power Forward: Chris Bosh vs. Serge Ibaka

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    Chris Bosh: 18.0 PPG, .487 FG%, 7.9 RPG, 0.8 BPG

    Serge Ibaka: 9.1 PPG, .535 FG%, 7.5 RPG, 3.7 BPG

    Bosh is obviously the more accomplished scorer, being able to stretch the floor and work inside. He's certainly a mobile guy, but chasing Ibaka in transition could become a chore over time. With questions remaining about Chris Bosh's health level, Ibaka will want to up the physicality level in the paint.

    Ibaka's shot-blocking ability is going to create problems for Bosh; don't be surprised if his scoring output dips by a couple of points throughout the series.

    Yet, Serge must also have the offensive series of his life. Otherwise, Bosh is going to be able to roam too much defensively. The Miami Heat big man doesn't protect the rim like Ibaka, but his length does close lanes and create turnovers.

    Both players are so different, yet each are going to be X-factors for their respective teams.

    ADVANTAGE: Miami Heat

Center: Udonis Haslem vs. Kendrick Perkins

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    Udonis Haslem: 6.0 PPG, .423 FG%, 7.3 RPG, 0.4 BPG

    Kendrick Perkins: 5.1 PPG, .489 FG%, 6.5 RPG, 1.1 BPG

    Perk and Haslem both have the same job: grab some boards, set good screens, protect the paint and beat the snot out of anyone they can get their hands on.

    Perkins can better protect the rim, but he's also lashed to it on the offensive end. Haslem is more mobile and can stretch the floor, especially from the sidelines and elbows.

    Whereas Perkins is usually a helpful afterthought for the Oklahoma City Thunder, Haslem is a critical contributor that the Miami Heat can't do without.

    ADVANTAGE: Miami Heat

6th Man: Shane Battier vs. James Harden

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    Shane Battier: 4.8 PPG, .387 FG%, .339 3P%, 2.4 RPG, 1.3 APG, 1.0 SPG

    James Harden: 16.8 PPG, .491 FG%, .390 3P%, 4.1 RPG, 3.7 APG, 1.0 SPG

    Battier will end up guarding Kevin Durant with some frequency, but that's the least of his worries right now. With little additional help coming off their bench, Battier's got to be an offensive contributor if the Miami Heat are to have a chance.

    On the other hand, James Harden is going to play starter's minutes and put up leading-man numbers across the board. He'll guard Dwyane Wade, causing just as many problems as he faces versus the Miami Heat star.

    Battier is a veteran who isn't afraid to step up and take big shots. Yet, he's clearly a middling bench player at this stage of his career. On the other hand, James Harden is both a legitimate star and the series' biggest wild card.

    ADVANTAGE: Oklahoma City Thunder

7th Man: Mike Miller vs. Nick Collison

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    Mike Miller: 6.1 PPG, .435 FG%, .453 3P%, 3.3 RPG, 1.1 APG, 0.4 SPG

    Nick Collison: 4.5 PPG, .597 FG%, 4.5 RPG, 0.4 BPG

    Miller is supposed to be a jack of all trades, but his bad back has him all jacked up these days. He's moving like a cadaver and has only hit double digits in three of 18 postseason games.

    On the other hand, Nick Collison hasn't scored more than eight points in a playoff game so far this year. As long as he plays stellar defense, sets good screens and mixes it up in the paint, the Oklahoma City Thunder are okay with the rest.

    Both of these players are supposed to be the "glue guys" for their respective teams, but only one of them is able to stick on the floor right now.

    ADVANTAGE: Oklahoma City Thunder

Rotation Players

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    Miami Heat: Norris Cole, Joel Anthony & Ronny Turiaf - 57.5 MPG, 13.7 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.9 SPG, 2.4 BPG

    Oklahoma City Thunder: Derek Fisher, Daequan Cook & Nazr Mohammed - 48.8 MPG, 13.1 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.3 SPG, 0.9 BPG

    While Anthony and Turiaf are expected to take up space and not screw up doing it, Norris Cole can occasionally provide some offensive punch.

    Derek Fisher will have to hit some big shots, but Daequan Cook has the potential to light things up if given the minutes. Mohammed hasn't sniffed more than garbage minutes this postseason, but he can at least be a competent space-eater if called upon.

    The Oklahoma City Thunder supposedly have the better reserves, but the regular season numbers don't lie when you get to the bottom of the bench. These guys might not play a lot during the series, but sometimes a few extra plays here and there makes all the difference in the world.

    ADVANTAGE: Miami Heat

The Verdict

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    The Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder split their regular-season series at one game apiece. OKC took the first game in definitive fashion, while Miami edged the second less than two weeks later.

    Better yet? Add up both teams' points scored versus allowed, and you wind up with a whopping 0.2 point advantage in OKC's favor.

    The Heat are 12-7 through the playoffs after facing the New York Knicks, Indiana Pacers and Boston Celtics. On the other hand, the Thunder are 12-3 after facing the Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs

    Oklahoma City is on a bigger roll through the playoffs against arguably more difficult competition. Yet, both the Thunder and Heat showed resiliency, superlative athleticism and timely execution in their conference finals wins.  

    On paper, this evenly-matched NBA Finals should go the distance. Both teams stack up equally in the big-picture categories. However, based on the matchups, the Heat have five areas of advantage versus the Thunder's three.

    ADVANTAGE: Miami Heat (in seven games)