The two most exciting teams in the playoffs have reached the NBA Finals, with the Oklahoma City Thunder taking on the Miami Heat. OKC roared back from an 0-2 deficit to defeat San Antonio and the Heat took the final two games to win a thrilling series against the Boston Celtics.
Basically we could break The Finals down into four different keys and components, which you can conveniently find below:
1) Clash Of The Superstars
LeBron James is the best player in the game, but Kevin Durant has proven that nobody can really stop him and can take over games at will. James can obviously do the same, but the question is can he play all 48 minutes each game like he did towards the end of the Eastern Conference Finals? Durant has more supporting help, but both can carry their teams if need be. Will they be guarding each other defensively? Who shines and who falters in the late-game, crunch time situations? It’s going to be an incredible showdown.
2) The Backcourt Battle
Dwyane Wade has been so overlooked and so overshadowed leading up to this series, and that’s been because of his lackluster, spotty and erratic play in the Eastern Finals. On the other side of the ledger, Russell Westbrook has been a strong facilitator and excellent defender. Both need to play within themselves and yield to the superstars addressed earlier. However, both players can go on fantastic runs and become huge factors, for good and bad, in this series.
3) Inside Information
Chris Bosh is finally healthy for the Heat and hit some huge shots on Saturday night. Boston’s bigs were not nearly as physical as Oklahoma City’s are and Miami will need Bosh, Udonis Haslem, Ronny Turiaf and Joel Anthony to play integral roles down low to keep up with Oklahoma City bangers Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison. Each possession is so crucial in The Finals, which tend to be slower-paced games with each trip down the court holding more weight, and preventing second chance opportunities on defense (and creating them offensively) could be enough to win or lose a game. Will a healthy Bosh make all the difference for Miami?
4) Bench Banter
James Harden is the most accomplished bench player in the league, and he’s joined by the aforementioned Collison and championship veteran Derek Fisher. The second unit is certainly a strength for the Thunder, but Miami has players of their own with strong intangibles. Miami goes with more players than OKC, with the aforementioned Anthony and Turiaf being joined by an important piece in Shane Battier and Mike Miller. When the superstars do ultimately sit down, the Thunder have the advantage.
Prediction- Thunder In 6.
Nationals 6 Blue Jays 3- Washington won its fourth straight behind three Bryce Harper hits. Harper is batting .364/.462/.606 in June with eight strikeouts and six walks. Not surprisingly, the Nats are 7-2 in June.
Marlins 4 Red Sox 1- Boston hasn’t been three games under .500 this late into the season since 1997. In his first start against his old team, Josh Beckett took the loss for Boston to fall to 4-7. In his last three starts, Beckett is 0-3 but Boston has scored just five total runs in those contests.
Yankees 3 Braves 0- Ivan Nova pitched seven shutout innings for his eighth win, continuing New York’s strong pitching in June. Their team ERA this month is a staggering 2.11, more than a half a run better than the second place Rays.
Angels 3 Dodgers 2- In Anaheim’s last four games, all wins, Mike Trout is 10-18 with a homer, four RBIs, 10 runs scored and six stolen bases. In an unrelated note, the Angels are 8-1 when Albert Pujols hits a home run. He went 2-4 on Monday to improve his average in June to .361.