With the 2012 NBA Finals kicking off on Tuesday, June 12, the excitement over what could be the best series any fan could dream of has the league on the lips of every basketball fan across the world.
The NBA couldn’t have planned for a better matchup than the hated Miami Heat and the loved Oklahoma City Thunder—especially considering the main battle on the court between polar opposites LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
While most casual fans won’t be able to take their eyes away from the matchup at small forward, there are several other players on both teams that need to bring their A-game. All of the following stars must play great for their team to steal the series.
As we saw in the Boston series, the Miami Heat need Chris Bosh healthy and playing well if they want to have a chance in the low post. As long as Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins are there, the Heat will struggle.
With almost no depth, Miami is facing a streaky group of Thunder big men that will dominate if the Heat—and Chris Bosh, most notably—don’t button down and play their best defensive basketball of the season.
Bosh missed much of the 2012 postseason with a strained abdominal muscle, and his return to the lineup was the difference in the team’s Game 7 win over the Celtics. If the Heat want to steal the show, Bosh must play the best series of his career.
While everyone on the Thunder have an important role to play, center Kendrick Perkins must continue to redeem himself for the poor offensive showing he’s had this postseason while adding that toughness that the Thunder lack without him.
It’s clear that LeBron and Wade like to chatter at the opposition, and that’s fine. They'd better be ready for plenty of retorts from Perkins, though, who will not be pleased with the Heat’s dynamic duo trying to run through him.
The Thunder need Perkins to be smart and not take bad fouls or foul out too early. That’s his key for the series. If he stays in the game for longer and grabs a few extra rebounds, that will only ensure his team’s victory.
While all eyes will be on LeBron James, there is just as much pressure from the city of Miami and the NBA for Dwyane Wade to show up big. This is his team, after all.
As good as the 22 points he is averaging per game this postseason has been, the lack of scoring depth isn’t an excuse in the finals. If the Heat can’t score, Wade must take charge and make them score.
Where Wade may be in a bit over his head is with the defenders he will face and how a bench player like James Harden can push the Miami star defensively as hard as he ever has. If the Heat want a chance to win, they need MVP-caliber performances from Wade every game.
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