The Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder are set to face off Christmas day in an NBA Finals rematch, and with both teams leading their respective conferences, you have to wonder if we’re looking at a preview of the 2013 championship series.
Both of these teams have risen to greatness quickly, but they’ve reached the forefront of the league with drastically different approaches. The Thunder have grown organically through the draft—for the most part—while the Heat have used free agency to attract the stars of the Association.
This storyline is nothing new, but it’s a theme that will be looked at every time these teams get together.
Christmas day will play host to five incredible basketball games, but if you can only choose one, you won’t be disappointed when OKC takes their talents to South Beach.
*All statistics and standings are accurate as of Dec. 22, 2012 at 12:00 AM.
How Do They Match Up?
The Heat may have defeated the Thunder four games to one in the 2012 NBA Finals, but with the exception of the final game in the series, these two teams battled night in and night out.
Each squad looks a bit different this year, but there’s no reason to believe that there would be any less intensity if they matched up again come June.
So far throughout the 2012-13 season, the Thunder have been the better defensive unit. They’ve allowed the 10th-fewest points per game all year, they’ve been much better on the glass and they have an energy about them that is virtually unmatched around the NBA.
Offensively, Oklahoma City leads the league in points per game, but these two teams are very evenly matched. Miami is the No. 1 team in both field-goal and three-point shooting, but the Thunder are right behind them as No. 2 in both categories.
According to John Hollinger’s Team Statistics (via ESPN), these two run the exact same pace. In fact, the only major offensive statistic other than points where OKC leads the Heat is free-throw percentage—a category in which it also leads the league.
At this point, the matchup goes to the Thunder on paper, but we've seen Miami go into coast mode before, and they are as dangerous as anybody on any given night.
Do We Want This Rematch?
NBA fans love to see fresh blood on the grand stage, but what’s even more intriguing than a new-look league is a battle-tested rivalry.
It’s tough to truly call these two rivals at this point as they’ve played one playoff series against each other. But that series was beyond entertaining, and they both play a style of basketball that appeals to fans in every which direction.
The other thing people want to see is the good guys versus the bad guys. It’s no secret that Miami is still a villain in this league, and it would be fitting for the young, energetic Thunder to dethrone them in 2013.
OKC has the league’s poster child in Kevin Durant. He has the charisma and the personality to match his production on the court, and if he were to face off again against LeBron James and the Heat, people would tune in to see the stars go to war.
So do we want to see this rematch? Do we really want to watch the same teams face off two years in a row?
Will It Happen?
When predicting who is going to be competing for an NBA championship, you can’t just look at two teams; you have to look at each conference.
The Heat have a surprising New York Knicks team on their tails, but until the defending champions are taken down, you have to believe that they’re the favorite in a top-heavy conference.
The Thunder, on the other hand, have four teams behind them with a better winning percentage than the No. 3 team out East. The San Antonio Spurs have looked efficient as ever, the Memphis Grizzlies have boosted their game to another level and the Los Angeles Clippers have been the hottest team in the NBA as we approach the Christmas day lineup.
The Thunder will have a tough route to get where they want to be, but there’s a reason they’re still in first place in a tough Western Conference. They have the talent to compete with anybody in the league, and they match up nicely with a Miami team that is a huge favorite to return to the grand stage.
There’s no way to tell the future in a league full of surprises, but if history truly does repeat itself, we’re looking at a one heck of a Finals rematch come 2013.