In a shortened NBA year due to the a lockout that cut 16 games from each team's season, the NBA and its fans wound up getting exactly what they wanted. Beginning tonight at 9:00 PM ET, the NBA finals tips off in Oklahoma City with LeBron James and the Miami Heat taking on Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder. A matchup that has been much anticipated is exactly what the NBA needed and it is sure to be a series that won't disappoint. Here are seven predictions for the upcoming series that will hopefully go the distance.
The match-ups within the matchup themselves are must see television -- Durant vs LeBron playing the roles of the hero and villain, Wade vs Westbrook and even David vs Goliath in regards to a small market in Oklahoma City compared to that of a big city in Miami. It's a series that offers so many storylines, and debate, but will it live up to its expectations? The answer is yes. Outside of this matchup, ever since LeBron James decided to "take his talents to South Beach," all fans, love him or hate him, have been glued to their TV sets to see the Miami Heat. I would expect record ratings for this series and I don't think anyone is expecting it to end quickly. I don't see any blowouts during the course of this series, and though both these teams don't tend to go deep into their bench, their stars are young and most of them are pursuing a first championship. Expect tired legs to take a backseat to adrenaline and determination. I don't see any game in this series being decided by more than ten points.
With the Oklahoma City Thunder being perfect thus far in the playoffs at home, they have a tough task of keeping that in tact when they host Miami in games one and two and, if necessary, games six and seven as well. The Thunder extended that streak when they returned home last series down 2-0 to San Antonio and reeled off four straight wins to close out the Spurs, a team that had been undefeated through their first two rounds before losing to Oklahoma City. The Thunder are 34-7 this season at home (including playoffs) and the Heat are 22-19 on the road (including playoffs), however I think it's safe to say once the playoffs begin, especially the Finals, everything else that has happened prior doesn't matter. I predict the Thunder's playoff home winning streak will come to an end, not once, but twice. I'll go one better to say the Thunder's young stars will perhaps struggle in game one tonight and Miami will take a 1-0 series lead on Oklahoma City's home floor.
When Chris Bosh left game one of the Conference Semi Finals against the Indiana Pacers with an abdominal strain, it seemed like Miami's chances without him to win an NBA Championship, let alone the series, had gone out the window. While Bosh has always been perhaps the third most important of Miami's "Big Three," he is the team's only true inside presence as far as scoring and he was greatly missed as the Heat narrowly beat out the Pacers in seven games without him. He played sparingly against the Boston Celtics and again the Heat needed to grind out a game seven victory to defeat the Celtics to get to the NBA Finals. According to Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, Bosh is still far from 100 percent and how much he will play come game one is up in the air. However, this, of course, is the NBA Finals. There is nothing to save Bosh for beyond this. His injury is not career threatening, and there aren't more important games to come this season. Miami has been smart by playing it safe thus far, but I would imagine it will be "all hands on deck" so to speak and I expect Bosh to play often this series. While his injury will still linger and have an effect on his game, I think he will fight through it and will his way in pursuit of his first NBA Championship. I predict that in at least two games, Chris Bosh will pay big, or perhaps the better word would be impactful. In at least two games this series, I see Bosh getting say around 15 points and 8 rebounds. While they aren't numbers that will standout in a box score, they are a nice accompaniment to what LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have to routinely put up.
Winning an NBA Championship is nothing new to Derek Fisher. He has five championship rings, and is used to being a role player who occasionally steps out of the shadows and into the spotlight to hit a big shot. Miami's Shane Battier plays a similar role for the Heat, however is yet to get his first ring. A free agent this past off-season, Battier signed with the Heat surely thinking playing alongside LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh would give him the best opportunity at earning his first one. When the game is on the line, in the final seconds there's no doubt both teams will look to LeBron, Wade or Durant and Westbrook but sometimes it's the clutch shot that takes a two point lead to a five point lead in the final minute that seals it. That's where guys like Fisher and Battier make their money and get their moments in the spotlight. During the course of this series, either Derek Fisher or Shane Battier will hit a clutch shot in the final minute that ultimately seals the game.
In a series that has gotten a lot of hype and one that is expected to live up to all of it, what would be more dramatic and more satisfying than a game 7? Perhaps a last second winner in a game 7, but otherwise this series will still live up to all the expectations. I see, and perhaps more out of hope, this series will go the distance and wind up being decided in a game 7. In a year that has provided much disappointment with the NBA considering the lockout, and even recent suggestions at fixed results with the lottery and favorable calls for certain teams in the playoffs, it would be almost forgivable if this series came through and provided fans with the drama it's expected to produce.
The series the NBA and its fans wanted to see, all the story lines answered, the NBA Finals has gone the distance and after seven games a champion has been crowned. The Miami Heat will win the championship in seven games over the Oklahoma City Thunder. Goliath has defeated David this time and team viewed as "evil" will prevail, however not all will be bad. As I previously said, I think the ratings will be at an all time high for the NBA and fans will be presented with a great series. I think it will go back and forth with teams splitting the first four games and then Miami winning games 5 and 7 to clinch the series victory.
Viewed as the "villain" ever since he made a regretable choice to air "The Decision," hated by many after joining Miami, a stacked team in an effort to win a championship, scrutinized after every loss and missed shot, numerous comparisons to legend Michael Jordan, but always pegged as playing the second fiddle. This is LeBron's time. Third time's a charm, he has finally won the NBA Championship and perhaps temporarily silenced his critics. While he will most likely take on much of the blame in the three losses for Miami this series he will ultimately be the main reason they win the four other games. I expect LeBron James to get it done this time. LeBron will match Kevin Durant shot for shot getting the better of him more times than not and win the Finals MVP. Being accused of disappearing in the fourth quarter no more, he will demand the ball late and come through when it counts. Love him or hate him, the world will watch him and we will all witness him hoisting the Larry O'Brien trophy as well as the MVP trophy.