NBA Playoffs 2013: Heat and Thunder on Collision Course to Meet in NBA Finals

Michael DulkaContributor IApril 26, 2013

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 21:  Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder attempts to control the ball against LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat in Game Five of the 2012 NBA Finals on June 21, 2012 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Through the first days of the NBA playoffs, it has become increasingly clear that the Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat are destined for an NBA Finals rematch. 

The Heat have proven that they are the best team this season. With a remarkable regular-season record of 66-16, the Heat have done a good job thus far to defend their NBA championship. LeBron James has somehow improved his game and made the Heat almost unbeatable. During the Heat's 27-game winning streak, it certainly felt that way. 

While the Heat and Thunder have repeatedly proven their consistent levels of play, the biggest reason they are headed back to the Finals is the lack of competition in their conferences.

With the Boston Celtics missing Rajon Rondo and showing their age, the Celtics don't appear to be a threat to the Heat. Derrick Rose's absence for the Chicago Bulls has diminished their chances of taking the Heat down. 

That leaves the New York Knicks and the Indiana Pacers as the only challengers to the Heat in the East. While the Pacers were one of the only teams to win the season series against the Heat, they don't have the consistent scoring or overall talent to challenge Miami in a series. The Knicks' age and dependence on Carmelo Anthony will surely catch up to them at some point.  

The Western Conference is more competitive, but the Thunder are simply the best team. 

The winner of the Golden State Warriors and Denver Nuggets series could have been a threat to the Thunder, but injuries to David Lee and Danilo Gallinari have reduced their chances. That leaves the San Antonio Spurs, Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Clippers as the biggest challengers.

The Spurs have been consistent, but they don't have a player capable of slowing down Kevin Durant. Tony Parker could also struggle to contain Russell Westbrook. The other question is whether they would be able to score enough points to match the Thunder.

That's the question for both the Clippers and the Grizzlies as well. The Thunder finished fourth in scoring during the regular season with 103 points per game. At eighth, the Clippers were close with an average of 101.1 points, but the Grizzlies finished 26th with 93.4 points per night. 

At this point, the Heat and the Thunder are just that much better than everybody else. Unless a big upset takes place, these two teams will be back in the NBA Finals for the second straight year. 

The Thunder, who are considered the most likely threat to the Heat repeating, finished with two losses and no wins against the Heat. The Heat won 103-97 in the first matchup and 110-100 in the second. The Thunder got big performances from Kevin Durant in both games, scoring 33 and 40 points respectively. 

With more than a month remaining before the Finals, the rest of the playoffs are just a preview to the rematch of the Heat and the Thunder.