NBA Finals 2012: 6 Statistical X-Factors and Predictions for Heat vs. Thunder
The 2012 NBA Finals are bound to be one of the most competitive and most watched series in recent memory.
Aside from key individual matchups to watch, there are a number of statistical X-factors that will be the real difference maker in this epic showdown. From free-throw attempts per game to fast-break efficiency, the result of this series will come down to which team can win specific statistical battles.
Ahead you'll find six key statistical X-factors and predictions for the 2012 NBA Finals.
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Free-throw percentage is pivotal to winning this series, but a high percentage means nothing if it isn't complimented by a high amount of trips to the free-throw line.
Whichever team is able to get to the free-throw line more, will obviously have more attempts from the charity stripe—but that team will most likely also be playing a more aggressive style of basketball, and that's going to be key in deciding who wins the 2012 NBA title.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are shooting a playoff-best 83.5 percent from the free-throw line, while the Miami Heat are shooting just 72.3 percent. Keeping the Thunder away from the free-throw line will be pivotal for the Heat, as will it be for the Thunder.
To win this series it's going to take intelligent and focused defense that limits the amount of times either team heads to the free-throw line.
Prediction: Whichever team has the higher number of free-throw attempts per game will win the series.
Scoring After the Half
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I know this sounds like common sense, but the Thunder and Heat both made it out of their conference finals by amping up their scoring production in the second half of ballgames.
Large leads have been diminished by impressive scoring performances in the third and fourth quarters by star players like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Dwyane Wade and Russell Westbrook.
Controlling their opponents' scoring after the half is going to be integral to both teams' success in the 2012 NBA Finals. Coming out after halftime and amping up the defensive pressure is going to be a key to which team is crowned the 2012 NBA champion.
The Thunder will have to key on the Heat's ability to come out of halftime and have explosive third quarters—which is the way the Heat fought off elimination against the Celtics.
The Heat will have to contain Durant's ability to explode offensively in fourth quarters—which is what he did to lead the Thunder past the Spurs.
Prediction: Whichever team is plus in third-quarter scoring will win the 2012 NBA title.
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Turnovers, in and of themselves, won't be the name of the game in the NBA Finals. The focus instead will be on the assist-to-turnover ratio.
The Thunder and Heat are at times prone to taking more shots off the dribble than focusing on ball movement and finding the open man around the perimeter or inside the paint.
While turnovers will certainly be important, the amount of assists that are accumulated will be just as important. The Thunder are currently averaging just 11.5 turnovers and 18.7 assists per game, whereas the Heat are averaging 13.1 turnovers and 17.4 assists.
The reason why this statistic will be a difference maker is because it aptly displays which team is able to move the ball at a more efficient rate. It also shows which team is playing like more of a cohesive unit than just individual performances.
Prediction: The team that's closer to a 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio will be the 2012 NBA champions.
Offensive Rebounds/Second-Chance Points
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Offensive rebounding is going to be an absolutely pivotal statistical category, because it is directly linked to a team's ability to generate second-chance points.
Yes, there are times when teams grab more offensive boards and fail to generate second-chance points, but that's the exception and not the rule.
The Thunder have a decisive advantage in their frontcourt on the boards with Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka, but with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade crashing for offensive boards, that advantage will be legitimately minimized.
The Heat will win the offensive-boards battle with their backcourt, whereas the Thunder will do so with the play of their frontcourt. Whichever team can generate more second-chance scoring will be the team that's hoisting the 2012 Larry O'Brien Championship trophy at the end of the series.
Prediction: Whichever team can hold the other team to around five offensive rebounds per game will win the series.
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The most pivotal statistical X-factor of the 2012 NBA Finals will be which team can generate more scoring coming off the bench.
Bench scoring depends on which players are coming off the bench for either team. While it's a lock that James Harden will be bolstering the Thunder's second unit, it's still up in the air whether Chris Bosh will be in the starting lineup or if he'll be coming off the bench like he did in the Eastern Conference finals.
If Bosh comes off the bench, the battle of bench scoring will be much more equal than if the Heat's bench scoring is left solely to players like Mike Miller, James Jones and Norris Cole.
In a series that's dominated by big-name players, the real difference maker is going to be which group of role players will be able to dominate the box score, offensively speaking.
While there won't be a lot of minutes for bench players, as the starters will want to be on the court as much as possible, there's no doubt that they will still be a major factor.
Prediction: Whichever team's second unit can produce closer to the 30-point mark will come out on top in this series.
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The Heat and the Thunder have both made it to the 2012 NBA Finals with potent offensive production that is rooted in being able to get out into transition early and often.
Shockingly enough, during the regular season the Thunder averaged more fast-break points than the Heat, to the tune of 16.2 points and 13.5 points per game, respectively.
Like we've seen all season long, though, Miami is the most dangerous team in the NBA when LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are running in transition. Both teams' focus on the defensive side of the ball must be trying to minimize the amount of times the other team is able to get out into transition.
The Thunder will try to maximize their opportunities in transition by creating turnovers like they've done all postseason long—if they are able to do that on a consistent basis, the Thunder will be an extremely difficult team to beat.
Fast-break production and subsequent transition defense is going to be a major factor when it comes to which team is going to win the 2012 NBA Finals.
Prediction: Whichever team can hold the other team to under 9.5 fast-break points per game will be crowned the 2012 NBA champions.