NBA fans have been yearning for an exciting matchup such as the one between the experienced Miami Heat and the young and explosive athletic Oklahoma Thunders. These two matchups presents arguably two of the best players in the NBA with the league MVP Lebron James going head to head against the leading scorer, Kevin Durant. This finals matchup promises exciting fast pace play that will dominate Sportscenter highlights all through out the series. Below is a breakdown of some of the key matchups and strategies, strength and weaknesses of each team.
Thabo Sefolosha vs. Dwyane Wade:
Some insist that Dwyane Wade is not 100% healthy due to his inconsistent plays through out the playoffs. At times the 2006 NBA Finals MVP looks lost on the court and shy of the dominating player that he once use to be. In order for Miami to win this game, Wade will need to start the game with some sort of urgency and needs to be agressive from the opening tip. Many are predicting that Brian Westbrook will be defending Dwyane Wade which will be a huge mistake because Westbrook is not much of a defender or does he even try to defend on the other side of the ball. We all saw how Tony Parker embarrassed Westbrook in the first two games of the Thunder, Spurs series by averaging 26 points per game. Putting Westbrook on Wade will only energize “Flash” and elevate his game possibly to what we witnessed in the 2006 NBA finals and i think Scott Brooks is smart enough of a coach to know this. Sefolosha is a very long and athletic defender on the perimeter and putting him on Wade will be a good strategy for Scott Brooks to eliminate Wade from making any type of impact on the game. This will put a lot of pressure on Lebron James to deliver and just as we saw him in Cleveland, James can not do it all by himself. We saw it in the Thunder and Spurs series when Sefolosha was assigned to defend Spurs point guard Tony Parker after Game 2 which changed the complexion of the series with OKC going on to win four straight games. If Wade gets out of sinc and is handicapped by Sefolosha’s defense then expect OKC to win this game by a fairly margin.
Serge Ibaka vs. Chris Bosh:
We saw how valuable Chris Bosh was in clinching game 7 verses the Celtics . Although Lebron somewhat dominated the game, i believe Bosh was the MVP of that game because of the many big shots made through out the game and also in the final minutes to seal the series. Although he is still recovering from an abdominal strain, Miami will need some contribution from the talented versatile player. Bosh impact on the game will not just adhere from his scoring but also his ability to spread the floor, providing open lanes for Lebron and Wade to attack the basket. This takes Serge Ibaka away from the basket, living OKC without a shot blocker in the paint. Ibaka is well known for his defense more so than anything else; especially his shot blocking ability and if he’s able to use his length to distract Bosh and the passing lanes, it will make it very difficult for Bosh to rebound or score effectively. OKC does not depend on Ibaka for points contribution; however if he’s able to burst out 12-15 points, then OKC will be in a very good shape to win game 1. Kendrick Perkins will be key in guarding either Udonis Haslem or Joel Anthony but i think it will be a big mistake for OKC to put Perkins on Haslem. Haslem is quicker and can hit the 17-20 foot jump shots and we all know that Perkins is an around the rim type of defender and one that will look silly when pushed away from the basket. In order for Perkins to have any success, Scott Brooks should only play him when Joel Anthony is in the game due to Anthony’s lack of offensive arsenal.
Kevin Durant vs. LeBron James:
League MVP verses Leading League score presents two of the best players in the NBA going head to head tonite. This presents one of the most exciting NBA Finals matchup that we as NBA fans have seen in quite some time. These two superstars presents two different playing styles and whoever can impose their will on the other, will win the game and the series. Durant is more of a shooter and one that does not drive to the basket as often as his should. With his ability to shoot the three and also make free throws, if Durant can stay out of foul trouble and get to the line on average ten times a game, then game 1 and the series will swing in OKC’s favor. He needs to be aggressive and not only settle for jumpshot but constantly attacking in different forms. Lebron on the other hand needs to do the opposite and that is what he is known for. He needs to keep attacking the basket like the bull that he is and eventually that will wear Durant down because Durant does not have the body type to keep Lebron in front of him or on the post.
Eric Spoeltra needs to recognize this and put Lebron in the post and let Wade handle the ball for distribution. Spoeltra needs to constantly keep moving Lebron around without the ball as he did in the key game 6 versus the celtics which resulted with a lot of positivity with James beasting for 45 big points. Lebron James is playing at a high level now with an intensity that i don’t think we have seen before and it shows in his eyes and the way he plays the game. After losing two NBA finals, and the constant bashing of his character for going to Miami, it is impossible to go against the Heat in this series. It will be extremely hard to hold him under 30 points per game and If Wade and Bosh can chip in to help him along the way, then this series will certainly favor the Heat. The bench match-up will play a critical role in this matchup and this is where OKC can take advantage with James Harden coming off the bench. In a famous quote by former NFL coach Herm Edwards, “You play to win the game”, so lets all gear up for tonite’s game and lets see which team is hungry for a win tonite.