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NBA Finals preview: Miami Heat vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

Daniel Romero-Salas
A Rappler breakdown of the NBA finals, and our prediction on who between Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder will come out on top

MANILA, Philippines — The finals are here. And what a season it has been.

Few expected the young Oklahoma City Thunder team to make the NBA Finals, but after routing the older, more experienced San Antonio Spurs, OKC has proven that they deserve to be fighting for the coveted 2012 title. 

The impressive Thunder will be facing off with the star-studded Miami Heat. This is the second year in a row that LeBron James will be fighting for the championship with the Heat, and both teams are just as hungry for the title.

Here’s all you need to know about the finals between the talent-rich Miami Heat, and the skilled Oklahoma City Thunder.

MIAMI HEAT VS. OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER

Season series: 1-1

The all weather final begins tomorrow with two high scoring trios looking to win their first title ever. The Oklahoma City Thunder lost in the Western Conference Finals last year but were able to exorcise their demons in 2012. The Heat are back in the finals after losing to the Mavericks in the 2nd year of their big 3 era. This Oklahoma City team is a new breed, for the first time since 1998, the Western Conference representative in the finals is not one of the Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs or Dallas Mavericks. 4 players on the Thunder average in double figure points per game this post season and their average age is 22.5.

Point Guard: Mario Chalmers struggled guarding Rajon Rondo in the previous round and will deal with an entirely different beast in Russell Westbrook. While Rondo is a more cerebral player, Westbrook is a physical force who averaged 6.1 shots per game at the rim this season getting there with his explosiveness.

Rappler says: Advantage Thunder

Shooting Guard: Thabo Sefolosha is the starting shooting guard for the Thunder but will split time with James Harden coming off the bench. Sefolosha was able to slow down Tony Parker in the last series but Wade is a more physical player who relishes contact and has gotten to the free throw line 126 times in the playoffs.

Rappler says: Advantage Heat

Small Forward: The current MVP faces off against a young up and coming superstar in Kevin Durant. Both players have played a tremendous amount of minutes per game (Lebron at 42.4 and KD at 41.6) and will be expected to carry their teams. James played out of his mind in the Boston series averaging 33.6 points per game, 11.6 rebounds, 3.9 assists, and 11.4 free throw attempts all while shooting 52.7% from the field.

Durant has impressed as well but has not defended against a top talent like James at the small forward position. Matched up against Shawn Marion, Metta World Peace and Kawhi Leonard allowed him to rest a bit more defensively, James will likely attack Durant in hopes to get him in foul trouble.

Rappler says: Advantage Heat

Power Forward: Chris Bosh returned to the Heat and the team promptly won every game since his return. While not the most well known of the big 3, he is perhaps the most important for their success. His mid range shooting (4.9 shots from 16-23 feet this year) opens up space for Wade and James to slash to the bucket. Serge Ibaka’s role is to protect the rim, a job he’s done very well with 3.3 blocks per game, but it will be difficult for him since Bosh’s jump shooting will force him out of the lane. Ibaka’s shot blocking presence will be crucial in defending Miami’s wing men.

Rappler says: Advantage Heat

Center: The grunt work for both teams will be supplied by the centers. Udonis Haslem and Kendrick Perkins are familiar with each other because of Perkins’ past as a member of the Celtics. He enjoys a distinct size advantage being 2 inches taller and outweighing Haslem by 45 pounds. Haslem’s strength is pick and roll defense where his quickness allows him to trap the ball handler but retreat quick enough to get back to his man when needed. Perkins is more suited to guarding low post players but provides much needed inside toughness.

Rappler says: Even

Bench: The Thunder have a huge advantage in terms of bench play. James Harden’s 17.9 points per game is more in line with an all star’s numbers rather than a sixth man. Nick Collison is shooting 67% from the field leading all players in the playoffs and Derek Fisher has been hitting big 3 point shots since his Laker days. The Heat have a combination of 3 point shooters who cannot hit anything. Shane Battier, Mike Miller and James Jones are shooting 32% from 3 point land this post season. Joel Anthony started 51 games this season but only 1 in the playoffs. He did not even play in game 7 against the Celtics.

Rappler says: Advantage Thunder

This series could go either way. The Thunder have certainly been more impressive but have yet to play a great defensive team. Their defense has not been otherworldly either; the San Antonio Spurs were able to score over 100 points in 4 of their 6 games. The Heat have a battle tested defense and an offense that is ready to hum with the return of Chris Bosh. Either way this series is going to be extremely fun to watch.

Rappler says: Miami in 7

– Rappler.com

Daniel Romero-Salas is a lifelong NBA fan with an inclination to statistical analysis of the game. He graduated from the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts, and strives to bring a refreshing take on one of the most popular leagues in the world. Follow him on Twitter: @danromerosalas

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