2012 NBA Finals Predictions: Why Miami Heat Have Series Locked Up
After losing Game 1 in the deafening Chesapeake Energy Arena, the Heat marched back to take the next two games behind strong performances from LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Miami now boasts a golden opportunity to close out Oklahoma City at home in five games.
If they continue to play at this high of a level, the Heat will secure a title before the Thunder can utilize their homecourt advantage in Games 6 and 7.
James, averaging 30.7 points per game and 9.7 rebounds in the playoffs, is doing everything in his power to eliminate the choker label. Focused on winning his first championship, James has shown no fear, attacking the basket with regularity and playing relentless defense throughout the postseason. James is showing why he is still the league's best player.
Kevin Durant is the NBA's premier scorer, but he has struggled to stay out of foul trouble throughout the series. While all the talk revolves around Durant not receiving the same star treatment as James, a big part to the discrepancy is James' superior defensive skills.
After a lackluster showing in Game 1, Wade has delivered back-to-back superb performances. Playing nearly the entire time in Game 3, Wade contributed a much-needed 25 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.
When Wade falters, the Heat look like the Cleveland Cavaliers before James took his talents to South Beach. With Wade playing to his full potential, the Heat look unstoppable at times. They give up zero easy shots and are quick to make the opposing team pay on the fast break, where James and Wade often display amazing highlight plays.
Can we please put the notion that Chris Bosh is not an important member of the Heat to rest? Their offense is much better with the big man spreading the court with his fluid jumper.
After nailing three three-pointers in Game 7 against the Boston Celtics, Bosh took some unnecessary long-range shots in Game 1. In their last two wins, Bosh remembered that he is not Reggie Miller and earned two double-doubles.
Bosh has not done much offensively this series, but his determination on the boards is a welcome sign for a player who is constantly called soft. He has prevented Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins from establishing a size advantage down low for the Thunder.
The key factor in this series has surprisingly been the sharp shooting of Shane Battier, who has nailed 11 of his 15 attempts from behind the arc in the Finals. Miami has waited all year for someone else to step up and make some open shots. Battier's hot hand gives the Thunder another perimeter shooter to worry about, and often forced Ibaka to play out of the paint when the Heat implemented a small lineup.
The Heat fell behind in a playoff series for the third straight time this postseason and again showed their resiliency. When everyone pressed the panic button after falling 2-1 to the Indiana Pacers, the Heat took care of business without Bosh. When the Celtics took a 3-2 lead, pundits declared that the Heat should break up their famed trio.
Even after losing one game to the Thunder, Stephen A. Smith claimed that James was "in a world of trouble" of ever winning a championship.
Who will win the NBA Finals?
Let's not stoop to Smith's level and jump to such a bold conclusion, but the Thunder are at least in a bit of trouble.
The Thunder also already proved capable of rallying from behind when they fought from a 2-0 deficit to win four consecutive games against the red-hot San Antonio Spurs, who looked destined to win it all.
No lead is safe against the Thunder, who have made a living coming from behind to steal victories this postseason. In the past two games, however, their sluggish starts came back to haunt them.
Although the Thunder stormed back after trailing 18-2 in the first quarter, they failed to close out another improbable comeback. It may work for the Dillon Panthers, but a real championship team cannot constantly rely on late-game heroics.
The Heat are at their best when they can avoid a close fourth quarter and run away with the game. The Thunder are playing with fire by constantly digging a hole in the first quarter.
While the Thunder are loaded with talent, they often rely heavily on jump shots. Russell Westbrook is the most dynamic player in the game when he hits his pull-up jumper, but he has not played efficiently this series. Averaging 24.3 points per game on 41.1 percent shooting, Westbrook has regressed to a high-volume scorer.
Westbrook certainly deserves the ball, but trouble arises when he consistently takes more shots than Durant.
The Thunder need to quickly turn the tide in Game 4. If not, James will finally earn a ring and lead the Heat to glory.
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