Image Credit: SportsCenter
Who would you rather have Kevin Durant or Lebron James? The 28 teams watching the NBA Finals from their couch would most likely take either one without any complaints. This year will be a great NBA Finals, as the MVP, Lebron James, meets the winner of the scoring title, Kevin Durant. The Thunder and Heat have only met 48 times; during the Oklahoma City Thunders short life in the NBA, and the Thunder have won a decisive 30 of these meetings. However, these are the NBA Finals now, and it is anyone’s series to win. Both teams are so evenly matched that any player that plays a little above their potential could swing the series in their teams favor. That being said here are three key match-ups and performances to watch for in the series:
Chris Bosh coming back from injury showed that it is not a two man team in Miami, and that Wade and James truly need Bosh if they want to win a title. The only question still remaining is if Bosh is in fact healthy, and if he can remain healthy throughout the series. Having a healthy Chris Bosh is pivotal for the Heat. With Bosh, the Heat match up evenly with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Without Bosh, the Heat do not stand a chance against the powerful Oklahoma City team.
Chris Bosh Returns to the Miami Heat
James Harden, the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award recipient, is critical to the Oklahoma City Thunder’s success. Both teams do not have a very deep bench, but both have clearly proved they can win without one up until this point. With these teams being so evenly matched, it will come down to the bench play of each team when they are resting their superstars. This is where Oklahoma City has the advantage. Even when the Heat are not resting Wade and James, Harden will give OKC the ability to rest Durant and Westbrook without too much of a drop off, as he has proven all season that he can run the high powered attack of OKC. Also, if the Thunder find themselves in the lead during games, Harden can be inserted at any point to not only hold the lead, but also extend it. This will prove essential to the Thunder, as Wade and James will be physically tiring to the opposing team’s defense as usual, and Durant especially will need valuable rest.
Harden Puts Spurs Away
Westbrook vs. Chalmers
Much like the Boston series, the Miami Heat will be at a disadvantage vs. the Oklahoma City Thunder at the point guard position. This matchup will prove to be fundamental to both teams success, as Chalmers does not need to shut down Russell Westbrook, but he must limit him. Westbrook is a much more consistent shooter then Rajon Rondo, and it will prove to be more difficult to shut down his scoring ability down the stretch. If the Heat can limit Westbrook they will take this series, but if they cannot limit the explosive Westbrook it will be a long series for the Heat. That being said, the Thunder must dominate this matchup throughout the series if they want to win a Championship. They will need to see a lot more of these kinds of plays from Westbrook over Chalmers:
Lebron vs. Durant
Who knows how much Durant and Lebron will be matched up on each other throughout the series, or even how important the matchup really is to the series overall, but either way it will definitely be one of the most exciting matchups the NBA has seen in quite a while. This matchup will compare to Barkley vs. Jordan, Magic vs. Bird, and Ewing vs. Olajuwon. It will not disappoint, that is a guarantee, as the best player and the second best player in the world compete, and just who is really the best of this 2012 NBA season will be decided. Most likely when it comes down to the end of the game Lebron James will be given the tough task of covering the clutch Kevin Durant, and vice versa, Durant will be given the task of shutting down James late in a game, much like he did to Kobe Bryant. Looking at this series, and the ability of both teams, it seems very unlikely that either team will sweep this series. This series will be decided in a game seven in Oklahoma City, where Lebron James and Kevin Durant will have the final say, one cementing his name in history amongst one of the greatest ever to play the game.
Image Credit: Ryan Hurst