The NBA Finals are here, and it is time to find out who can lead their team to a championship: 2012 MVP LeBron James or 2012 Scoring Champion Kevin Durant. This battle will be a clash for the ages, a David vs. Goliath showdown.
It is time to weigh in on some questions Frankie and I think are forthcoming in this 2012 NBA Finals matchup.
Frankie: The Thunder have been able to beat three veteran teams with their up-tempo style of play. Will this continue to work against the Heat who are also a quick team?
Mark: The Oklahoma City Thunder have been through an “easier said than done” journey to the finals in defeating the Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers, and San Antonio Spurs. The Miami Heat are the next opponent, and they oppose a threat especially when they are out and running. Scott Brooks’ team has not seen a mirror-image team with the same qualities but through regular season play the Thunder knows who is coming on their tracks.
Frankie: Westbrook at times has the inability to pass, and instead creates his own shots. Will this create a problem for the Thunder down the stretch in tight games?
Mark: Westbrook’s job should be scoring early so that the ball is not in his hands down the stretch. His opposition will most likely be Dwyane Wade and/or Mario Chalmers so I think he can use his versatility and leverage to create his own shot near the basket. Kevin Durant will be the modest go-to figure late in the game, but if he does have trouble in creating his own (hard to believe), the former Longhorn knows he has other weapons around him.
Frankie: Without a true offensive post presence, will the majority of the scoring need to come from the Thunder’s back-court?
Mark: See this is where it becomes interesting. The Thunder have been holding out the post schemes due to the succession of their jump shooting. This is where I think there are a few mismatches on the block. Kendrick Perkins has the ability to become a dominant post up figure with an attribute of offensive rebounding. He will be facing toe-to-toe with either Joel Anthony and/or Ronny Turiaf, as Chris Bosh will defend Serge Ibaka (another matchup to watch). If the Thunder can somehow have succession attain the presence down low as well as kicking it outside the Heat will have a rough time defending both the frontcourt and backcourt.
Mark: In the Eastern Conference Finals the home court advantage wasn’t as vital as both teams retrieved a win on the road; will the finals be different where home court is actually pivotal?
Frankie: I feel like Oklahoma’s home crowd is unparalleled to any other crowd in the entire league. Their fans truly make it hard for opposing teams to feel comfortable. I feel Oklahoma will have a better chance to win in Miami than the Heat will in Oklahoma City. Not to mention the Thunder have played phenomenal at home this post season. Home court will definitely favor the Thunder in the Finals.
Mark: What matchup will give the Heat the most complications in their offensive and defensive schemes?
Frankie: Offensively it’s near impossible to stop Kevin Durant. However, I expect LeBron to be extremely physical on Durant, making life a little more difficult for the scoring champion to get open looks. The hardest matchup for the Heat will be containing Russell Westbrook. Certainly Mario Chalmers won’t be able to handle the burden on his own. I could see the Heat mixing up coverage by using Wade as well. I wouldn’t even be surprised to see them play a type of zone.
Mark: Will Dwyane Wade be able to slide with 20 points per game, or will he have to give more in this series than he did against Boston?
Frankie: Well honestly, 20 points a game would be an improvement from his performances against the Celtics. Even 20 still won’t slide if the Heat plan on winning. Dwyane Wade played awful against the Celtics, and his play will be a direct result of the Heat’s chance against the Thunder. If he plays well, they’ll have a chance.