Heat vs. Thunder: What Oklahoma City Must Do to Cool off LeBron James

Matt Shetler@@buccos12Correspondent IJune 11, 2012

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 09:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat celebrates after the Heat defeat the Boston Celtics 101-88 and adcance to the NBA Finals in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Finals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs on June 9, 2012 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

After finishing off the Boston Celtics Saturday night, there's very little rest for LeBron James and the Miami Heat as Game 1 against the NBA Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder is set to tip off Tuesday night.

That could be good news for LeBron, as he's on a fantastic role and will have little time to cool down. But for the Thunder, figuring out exactly how to cool off the red-hot James could be the key to the series.

All LBJ has done is average 30.8 points and 9.6 rebounds for the entire postseason, including averaging 38 and 13.5 in the final two games that came with the Miami season on the line.

It won't be easy, but the Thunder can slow him down.

First of all, they can do so by being efficient on the offensive end and making shots.  That's something that Boston didn't do in Games 6 and 7 of the Eastern Conference finals, averaging a mere 83.5 points per game. At 102.3 points per game, Oklahoma City is the highest scoring team in the postseason, so that shouldn't be a problem.

The more they score, the more help LeBron will need as he simply won't be able to do it all by himself against the Thunder.

While OKC may not have the ideal shutdown defender to pair against King James, they are a very good half-court defensive team who gets stops when they have to.

They have athletic and long defenders like Thabo Sefolosha who can make it tough on the perimeter and a long-armed defender like Kevin Durant who can at least make things tougher on LeBron.

But the main keys to the Thunder slowing down James are Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins.

They can contest everything that comes into the paint, and if they can limit the points LeBron gets driving to the basket and force him to become a jumpshooter, then the Thunder have a huge advantage.

Boston didn't have the luxury of a pair of physical post defenders and a legitimate shot-blocker in Ibaka. 

The Thunder have averaged 7.5 blocks per game in the postseason (second to the Lakers' 7.8), and Ibaka leads all postseason players with 3.28 blocks per game.

At the minimum, it could be tough for James to attack the rim knowing that Ibaka will be waiting for him.

James may be able to carry the Heat to a win or two by knocking down mid-range and perimeter jumpers, but they won't be able to sustain things that way.

Turn LBJ into a jump shooter, and the Thunder will be celebrating a championship before it's all said and done.

 

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