NBA Finals Preview

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The deciding factor in this year’s finals is going to be the star power of Miami’s LeBron James and OKC’s Kevin Durant.

Jake Moser

The deciding factor in this year's finals is going to be the star power of Miami's LeBron James and OKC's Kevin Durant.

After defeating the Boston Celtics in seven, the Miami Heat now move on to the NBA Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder, who beat the San Antonio Spurs in six games to earn their finals appearance.

The teams split their two meetings. Miami (46-20, 2nd seed in East) won the last meeting on April 4 98-93 because Lebron James had a monster game and Heat players were knocking down their spot up looks. In their second meeting, the Thunder (47-19, 2nd seed in West) won easily when they got points from Serge Ibaka and from Kendrick Perkins.

Despite what most fans of basketball would admit, LeBron James deserved to be the MVP in the regular season, and he has continued that level of play into the playoffs — averaging 30 points a game on 50 percent shooting, plus playing a key role on defense. However, none of that will matter for his legacy if the Heat don’t win it all — no matter how he plays he will take the blame with many fans if the Heat come up short in this series. He was not comfortable being painted as the villain last season and this finals will be contrasted as the “good” Thunder against the “evil” Heat by many.  He will have to deal with that, or at least tune it out.  Bottom line for Miami — LeBron simply cannot be good in this series, he needs to be spectacular for the Heat to win.

Kevin Durant is the best pure scorer in the game today, he has a smooth jumper with an unblockable release point and  amazing range.  Miami is going to have some athletic, long defenders on him — including LeBron — and Durant is going to have to continue to score at a high rate. He is going to have to make plays late in close games. He is the heart of the Thunder offense.

This could be an epic finals. These are two very athletic teams who have guys that can simply take over a game and not be stopped. These are two very entertaining teams to watch, two teams who wouldn’t mind a track meet at times. Miami’s ability to defend can be key, but they have been inconsistent with execution at both ends all season and all playoffs long — if they have lapses against Oklahoma City the price will be severe.  Oklahoma City has been a great offensive team that plays enough defense to win, but when Miami has the ball the Heat will face some challenges. Oklahoma City brings some very long and athletic defenders to the table in Thabo Sefolosha and Serge Ibaka, plus they have the very aggressive Russell Westbrook and the long arms of Kevin Durant. They contest everything and get in the passing lanes with that length. Role players knocking down jumpers is key for the Heat – when they beat OKC in the regular season they shot better than 50 percent on their spot-up looks, when they lost the week before they shot 7-21 on spot up looks. Those have to fall for the Heat.