NBA Playoffs 2012: 7 Reasons OKC Thunder Will Win It All
Despite being tied 1-1 and heading to Miami, the Oklahoma City Thunder have to be brimming with confidence.
Through two games, the Thunder has found the chinks in the Heat’s armor.
Clearly they’d rather be ahead two games to none, but being within one whistle from overtime after such a horrendous start says something about this Thunder team. The Thunder has what it takes to win a title.
OKC will announce that loudly this week in South Beach. But for those of you who don’t want to wait, I’ll tell you the seven advantages OKC has over Miami—the seven things that will lead the Thunder to the 2012 title.
Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins give the Thunder a decided size advantage over the Heat.
At a skinny 6’11”, Bosh is Miami’s biggest post.
Ibaka (6’10”, 235 pounds), Perkins (6’10”, 270 pounds) and backup Nick Collison (6’10”, 255 pounds) all match up physically with Bosh.
Miami does not have three players who can match the physicality of OKC’s trio.
The mismatch that has taken shape is Ibaka on Battier. Battier’s three-point acumen has drawn Ibaka away from the basket.
That kept Ibaka blockless in Game 1. He responded with five in Game 2.
Now OKC needs to take advantage of its advantage and pound the ball inside a few times each quarter to alleviate some of the pressure from the Thunder wings.
The Thunder needs to win just one of three games in Miami. That returns the series to Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The fans there are louder and more passionate than anywhere else in the NBA.
Often times, home court advantage gets overstated in professional sports. In Oklahoma City, the fans are worth at least a few points each night.
The Thunder will not lose another game at home this postseason.
Just like Doc Rivers did, Scott Brooks has outcoached Erik Spoelstra so far this series.
Spoelstra made one of the biggest blunders in recent memory in Game 1 by assigning Shane Battier to guard Kevin Durant. Hey, Spo, you’ve got the best player on the planet—put him on the planet's best scorer.
He redeemed himself by putting James on Durant in the second game, but not until his team had already fallen behind in the series.
When it comes to late-game plays, Spoelstra’s mantra is to let James or Dwyane Wade decide.
Brooks, on the other hand, draws up plays to get the ball to his best player in a position to score.
It has been only two games, but Brooks is so far head and shoulders above Spoelstra as a coach in these Finals.
Point Guard Play
Comparing Russell Westbrook to Mario Chalmers is a waste of time.
Westbrook is better, hands down.
That’s why the Heat put Dwyane Wade on Westbrook.
Westbrook’s game is comparable to Wade’s. The younger Westbrook has an edge over an aging Wade. The 2006 version of Wade would have done a better job keeping up with Westbrook, but 2012 Wade is a step slower than the Thunder’s dynamo PG.
Westbrook’s relentless attacking of the basket will wear Wade down by the time the series draws to a close.
That, in turn, will slow Wade’s production on the offensive end as he is stuck sucking breath from working so hard defensively.
Throughout the playoffs, Mike Miller had been one of the Heat’s biggest assets off the bench. He’s played 11:24 through two games.
With Shane Battier’s suddenly hot three-point shooting, there isn’t as much need for Miller.
Erik Spoelstra has instead turned to Udonis Haslem and Norris Cole (assuming Chris Bosh starts the remainder of the series) off the bench.
Those two do not pack much punch when they enter the game.
On the other hand, Sixth Man of the Year James Harden can carry the Thunder on offense, like he did in the first half of Game 2.
Nick Collison has done an outstanding job keeping loose balls alive and providing energy.
While Derek Fisher still can’t figure out how to make an outside jump shot, his championship experience is a steadying presence on this young OKC team.
Harden and Collison outproduce Cole and Haslem more than 2:1. Fisher’s sensei status is a bonus.
The 2012 postseason has served as an unofficial coming-out party for Kevin Durant.
LeBron James is still the NBA’s best all-around player, but Durant is proving himself to be the best scorer. He’s even doing that one better—Durant is showing he might be the most clutch player in the game.
Durant doesn’t seem to miss in the second half. He missed the biggest shot of the night in Game 2, but he also had a monstrous hand pulling down on his arm.
In addition to scoring 30-plus in his first two Finals appearances, Durant hasn’t shied away from defending James. Whereas James defended the offensive juggernaut Kendrick Perkins for much of Game 1, there was Durant marking LBJ all night. James scored, but it wasn’t easy.
Perhaps more impressive than Durant’s spectacular play is the way he carries himself. When given multiple opportunities to excuse his miss because of the uncalled foul, he owned up to it.
“I missed the shot, man,” Durant said.
He missed that one. But if you asked anyone who they wanted taking a last-second shot with the game on the line right now, Durant is your guy.
They’re a Better Team
Outside of one of the dozens of Big Threes in the NBA, the Miami Heat have very little.
Sure, Shane Battier has suddenly come from out of nowhere to be an otherworldly three-point shooter, but statistically that will not keep up through a seven-game series.
That leaves too much pressure on LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
OKC has more talent throughout its lineup.
Serge Ibaka can make jump shots. Kendrick Perkins can bully his way through Miami’s interior. Thabo Sefolosha can make life miserable for James or Wade.
Then there’s the dynamic duo of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, the most fearsome pair in the NBA right now.
Add James Harden off the bench, and the Finals' other Big Three is up to the task. Only OKC’s Big Three has a lot more help from the other five who are playing big minutes.
Those other five will be the difference in the series.