The stage has been set and the NBA Finals feature some of the most prominent stars in the game. David Stern's dream series between Kevin Durant's Oklahoma City Thunder and the Big Three of the Miami Heat promises to be a very entertaining show.
There were times throughout these playoffs where it did not seem like commissioner Stern was going to get his ideal finals matchup. But, in typical playoff fashion, something always happens in one game or series that creates a ripple effect on the rest of the playoffs.
One of the biggest contributing factors to going deep into the playoffs is momentum. Teams can ride momentum past opponents that are much better than them. We see it all the time in every sports playoffs. Something happens that sparks a team's hot streak, and they show flashes of invincibility.
Both teams in the finals have shared momentum with their opponents in these playoffs, with the winners ultimately snatching it back to advance to the next round.
So what was the "something," that sparked a team's hot streak in these NBA playoffs? Here's my list of the five biggest games that led to the superstar showdown.
There hasn't been much that reigning Coach of the Year Tom Thibodeau has done wrong in Chicago. But many question why MVP point guard Derrick Rose was still in the game in the final minutes of a locked-up Game 1 against Philadelphia. The top-seeded Bulls suffered a major blow with 1:20 left in the fourth quarter.
Rose went down with a torn ACL in his left knee and will now miss an entire season. The question on people's minds was with a 12-point lead, why was Rose still in the game? If Rose hadn't gotten hurt in the first round, the entire complexion of the playoffs would have changed.
The Bulls were the Eastern Conference's best shot at taking down the Heat. But without Derrick Rose, the team could not even advance past the eight-seed.
After taking down the D-Rose-less Bulls to advance to the conference semifinals, the Philadelphia 76ers had a lot of momentum heading into their series with the Boston Celtics. That momentum is the reason it took so long for Boston to put the 76ers away.
We hear a lot about how one of Boston's biggest problems are their aging stars. So after a six-game first-round series and seven games of conference semis, a series with the Miami Heat proved to be too much for them. Philadelphia took Game 6 of this series on the strength of a 20-point performance out of Jrue Holiday.
If the C's could have taken that series in less than seven games they would have been better prepared to face the Heat in the conference finals and the series may not have had the same result.
Perhaps it was losing two games in a row that really set LeBron James off, but this season's MVP grabbed control of the series for Miami with a 40-point, 18-rebound performance in Game 4 against Indiana. This prompted a three-game streak for the Heat to close out the series in six.
Miami rode the momentum from this game all the way to the second game of their next series with Boston, winning five in a row. Such a great road performance right before taking the series back home can truly get a team firing on all cylinders.
Surely, he has been the object of much ridicule since he came to Miami, but LeBron James has proven that you do not want to wake the monster.
Similar to the Indiana series in the previous round, the Miami Heat lost three games in a row in the series with the Celtics. Now down 3-2, the series shifted back to Boston, where someone poked the bear.
45 points, five assists and 15 rebounds and LeBron does it again. James tore up the Garden and ripped the series away from the Celtics in front of their home crowd. Follow that up with a 30-point performance the next game in Miami and the Heat find themselves in the finals.
Heading into the third game of the Western Conference finals, the Spurs were riding a 20-game win streak, dating back to late January. They swept the Jazz and the Clippers but now had to face an extremely talented Thunder team.
So if you're Oklahoma City, how do you possibly win a series against a team this hot? Well if you answered, bring them back to your home court and embarrass them with a 20-point spanking, than you're right.
OKC's dominant performance in this game did two things: show that the Spurs are in fact beatable/human and shift the momentum back in their favor.