LeBron James vs. Oklahoma City Thunder is what the fans are looking forward to. If coach Erik Spoelstra wants to be employed by the end of the series, the entire Miami Heat team needs to show up.
James is one of the headliners, but despite what his gaunt championship dreams forged in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, he cannot do it alone.
Miami is a team built on an entirely different system than the Thunder and those differences will rear their heads during this seven-game series. No matter the profanity-riddled diatribe that anti-LeBron fans love to hurl in South Beach’s direction, they are constructed around a central component.
The Heat are products of LeBron’s success as he has proven throughout one of the toughest postseasons journeys he has faced in his career.
Averaging about 30.5 PTS in three series in this year’s playoffs, James has seen himself play several different positions and maintain responsibility for multiple defensive responsibilities. Coach Spoelstra then proceeds to ask the star to be Miami’s primary scorer and still facilitate the rest of his teammate’s offense.
Is there another man in the league that takes such a larruping in the media to go on the court and be the heart and soul of his team?
Miami has another superstar in Dwyane Wade and another star in Chris Bosh participate with an apoplectic aggression that rivals any other man on the roster and for what they are paid, this is expected. These three are the centerpieces of the monster that is the Miami Heat and everyone else, contributes whenever they can.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are a totally different Goliath to contend with.
The Thunder prorogued the San Antonio Spurs amazing run in the 2012 NBA Playoffs by becoming just as lethal defensively as they had been offensively. Think back to Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals in San Antonio.
The Thunder scored 111 PTS just to be outscored by the Spurs, 120. Against any other team in the league, 111 would have been enough to constitute a blowout of imperial proportions. Against the Spurs, however, it was just a testament to how well-oiled and prepared San Antonio was for Oklahoma City’s scoring attack.
The games afterwards subsequently proved how quickly the Thunder could adjust their defense to a multi-faceted scoring attack like what the Spurs hit them with in both Games 1 and 2.
They are stacked with some superstars of their own, including two All-Stars, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, and the Sixth Man of the Year, James Harden. All of these players score at will, but their uniqueness lies in the fact that they are not the only consistent players in their franchise.
Thabo Sefolosha’s length is a repeating factor in Oklahoma City’s defense, while Kendrick Perkins’ big body style of play around the rim wards away too much paint performance from opponents. Serge Ibaka has the capability to go 11-of-11 and still be an epic shot blocker on the other end of the court.
This franchise is ridiculously athletic from all cylinders and where some veterans may lack in speed and agility, they make up with intelligence and fundamentals.
The Miami Heat will be facing a team that has begun to retrieve an identity in the league and their leaders sit at the ripe age of 23 and 24. For the first time in this year’s playoffs, the Heat are clashing with a team just as, if not more, athletically-inclined as they are.
Keys to the Game:
- LeBron James vs. Kevin Durant is the matchup that everyone will be treated to after years of begging for an LBJ vs. Kobe matchup in the NBA Finals. It will be interesting to see how Durant combats James’ speed and burst from the foul line.
- James Harden is someone who the Miami Heat do not have a direct answer for. The matchups for Wade, Bosh and James are set in stone. However, Harden is the wild card that gives the Oklahoma City Thunder an edge over the Heat.
- Chris Bosh may or may not be Miami’s burst from the bench, which worked well in their favor in both Games 6 and 7 against the Boston Celtics. Yet, going up against such an offensively apt franchise like the Thunder, they need all their cannons locked and loaded from start to finish.