NBA Finals: Heat vs. Thunder

As heartbroken as I am to write this after C’s loss it must be done. But I will say, the Celtics fought hard and I truly hope last night wasn’t the last time us C’s fans see the original “Big 3” play together. I guess that is neither here nor there so let’s move on to what may be one of the best finals match ups in years. Finally, we have the two best players in the world going head to head in a battle to be the World Champions. You may say, “Well every year the best players match up”, wrong! If you look at the past few years in the NBA Finals, usually one of the best players makes it, sometimes neither of them. Last year it was LeBron and Dirk. Dirk was not one of the top two players in the league last year, he dominated the playoffs, but was certainly not top 2. The year before we had Kobe against the Celtics. No one on the Celtics was a top 2 player. And even the year before that, it was the same matchup. This year we get to see THE 2 best players in the world go neck and neck for the final prize.

Kevin Durant vs. LeBron james, arguably one of the best head to head match ups we have seen in a long time. Both teams come out of their respective leagues as the champs, and have been the favorites since the beginning of the season. The Thunder rolled through the West with relative ease. Sweeping the defending champion Mavericks in 4 games, beating Kobe and co. in 5 games, and won the Western Conference in 6 games, coming back from 2 down to take the series. The Heat have had a little tougher road getting through the East. In the first round the beat the utterly pitiful NY Knicks in 5 games (how that wasn’t a sweep is beyond me), they beat Larry Bird’s Pacers in 6 games, and finally beat the C’s in 7. The Thunder haven’t really been scared throughout these playoffs, whereas the Heat had a little scare put into them by the Celtics, having to go into the Garden in Game 6.

OKC has the ability to become a dynasty for years to come. They have all the pieces to help them dominate the NBA for quite a few years. When your best players, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, are only 23 years old, the future looks extremely bright. Arguably the MVP of the playoffs, Kevin Durant, has been spectacular. Durantula has averaged 28 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists throughout the playoffs, but don’t think he has been doing it by himself. The Thunder’s biggest threat is their depth. They have a loaded bench highlighted by 6th man of the Year, James Harden. It also helps when you have one of the best PG’s in the league as well in Westbrook. At 22 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds a game, Westbrook is always a threat to do anything on the court. He has scary athleticism when he drives to the bucket and can dunk on anyone. The most important players on the Thunder are neither of those two though, they are Serge Ibaka and James Harden. Harden, who comes off the bench, would start on any other team in the NBA, but because of the lineup the Thunder he has to be the 6th man. He comes in and is an immediate spark. Harden is a matchup problem for most role/bench players that he is usually matched up against. One thing about Harden is that he always goes left. It doesn’t matter if everyone is in his way going left, he is shooting a left handed layup. It’s almost like Rondo never using his left, it’s that constant not using the other hand. Harden helps Durant and Westbrook by spreading out the floor. He has a solid 3-point shot, shooting 45% in the postseason. Ibaka is a whole ‘nother story. Ibaka is going to cause some problems for the Heat because as we all know the Heat can’t shoot the outside shot very well. They rely heavily on attacking the rim and finishing above the rim. Ibaka will make that a tough task, he averages 4 blocks a game and countless changed shots. He will be able to disrupt D-Wade’s drives as well as LeBron’s. Which is something that the Thunder will need to do consistently to help them gain an advantage.

Is it finally time for LBJ to get a ring? Will he finally get that monkey off of his back? I don’t know but I sure know he is going to come in prepared and won’t let what happened last year happen again. LeBron has come into these playoffs with a vengeance. It is crazy to me that people think that he hasn’t been playing well, what are you on meth? LeBron has been averaging 30 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists per game! Those are absurd numbers, yet people are doubting him. In Game 6 against the Celtics, possibly his biggest/most important playoff game he has ever played in, he was Superman like. He had 45, 15, and 5 and shot 73%. Incredible. I am ready to see a LeBron I haven’t seen yet. One that has a little chip on his shoulder, one that truly wants the ring. He won’t do it alone though. With the likes of Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, LBJ will have help. In Game 7 against the C’s, Bosh was spectacular. Single handily broke the Celtics spirits with his shooting. And Dwayne Wade has been no bum, although he has gotten off to slow starts, Wade has been a force to be reckon with. Countless drives and acrobatic finishes have been in his highlight reel throughout the playoffs. I believe the two biggest keys for the Heat will be two players that are not in the Big 3. Shane Battier and Mario Chalmers. Two outside shooters, who if they are knocking down shots, can kill teams and help lift the Heat. Battier is also one of the best on-ball defenders in the Association, I don’t know if Spoelstra will place him on KD, but Battier will be able to defend James Harden. The Heat matchup well everywhere except for in the paint, hopefully they will be able to make up for that with their on-ball defense.

This series has dramatics written all over it. I envision big shot after big shot, and big play after big play. There are too many stars in this series for it not to happen. The key to the entire series will be the defense of both teams. We all know that both teams can score and score at will. It will be the first team that can buckle down and get stops that will win this series. I love the Thunder in this one and I’d love to see a dynasty in the making. I’m taking the Thunder and LBJ will have to hear it from fans for another year.

  • Thunder in 6

NBA Playoffs: Eastern Conference Finals

This has been what every Celtics fan has waited for, a chance to beat the Heat. Neither of these teams are going to need a pep talk or any of that, every single player knows how important this series is. For the Celtics, it may be their last real shot at a title. And as for the Heat, it is time for LeBron to prove that he can win a championship and finally live up to what the Heat’s “Big 3” said. God only knows that LeBron needs this more than anyone. D-Wade has won a title and he was able to do it by himself. Don’t give me the, “He had Shaq” ordeal. We all know Shaq was on his way out during his Heat days, so let’s not get out of hand. This series will be a true test on how the Celtics can do without their best on ball defender, Avery Bradley. Bradley would have more than likely guarded Dwayne Wade, who has been on fire after what had been the worst game of his career. Ever since his 5 point, 2-13 shooting performance in Game 2, Wade has been a man amongst boys. He finished the last 3 games of the Pacers series averaging 33 points, 7 boards and 4 assists. Now I can only hope that Head Coach Doc Rivers does not assign Ray Allen to guard Wade, and let me tell you why. Allen has been absolutely brutal on defense ever since his multiple injuries. He looks like he should be using a walker out on the floor, and that won’t be acceptable guarding one of the elite scorers in the Association. The Heat come into this series without lead big-man, Chris Bosh, whichI didn’t believe would a big loss, but ended up being a real large one for the Heat. The Pacers were able to control the boards and the paint without Bosh being there, they just didn’t have the talent to keep up with the Heat.

Injuries have been big for both teams but don’t tell any of the players playing in this series. “I don’t believe none of that. No feet hurting, no (one being) tired, nothing. This is the Boston Celtics. They’re all 100 percent to me. When they play the Miami Heat, it’s a different ball game. And vice versa. No storylines. No excuses”, said Wade after being asked about the many injury issues. Both teams vow to focus on what they have working for them entering the series. But regardless of which team wins and advances to the NBA Finals, it will be one that had to survive significant adversity to get there. This short rest for the Celtics has almost been a blessing in the skies for them. When looking at it, it may seem as a bad thing, but if you look at it from a Celtics players perspective, it could be good. As we all know the Celtics are not a young team, heck they are ancient, let’s not beat around the bush, so rest could be the worst thing for them. As an old team rest may make the players stiff, and force players such as Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, to have to re-motivate their body and warm all the way back up. “I kind of like it for us,” Celtics captain Paul Pierce said. “It keeps us in rhythm. It keeps us playing. We’re an older team so we get kind of stiff when we sit around for too long. We like the fact that we’re going to go right into it.” Pierce knows how much energy this series is going to take, the question is, will the Celtics have enough in the tank to play a long series? And I just don’t know the answer to that. Ray Allen looks like he needs a wheelchair on the floor, and Pierce and KG have been logging some serious minutes in these playoffs. Pierce is averaging about 38 minutes a game, 2 more than his career average. KG is averaging just above 37 minutes a game, just a minute above his career average.

Many NBA fans are counting the Celtics out, to which I say, balderdash. The Celtics may not look like a good matchup for the Heat, but in reality the Heat are a better matchup for the Celtics than the Pacers are. The Heat have the dynamic duo, but other than that, it looks like the Celtics have a few advantages. The 2 biggest advantages are PG Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett. Who is going to guard KG? Udonis Haslem? Joel Anthony? I mean no offense to those guys, but the way KG has been playing, he is going to embarrass them. Haslem and Anthony just don’t have the intangibles to guard KG. Defensively, KG is going to be able to park it down low and help out anyone and everyone on dribble drives, we all know offensively, Joel Anthony is about as useful as a screen door on a submarine. Another thing that helps the C’s in this series is that this is the kind of series that Rondo actually shows up to. He is one of those players, like one of my favorites, Antoine Walker, who show up “when the lights are on”. This series also should have enough “juice” for Rondo to be at his triple-double best, which is something the Celtics truly need. Paul Pierce may be a little taken out of his game with LeBron guarding him, if Rondo and KG can carry their load of the offense, Pierce will be able to get to his spots and hit is step-back jumper. I’m absolutely not counting the Celtics out that’s for damn sure, I just want them to keep it competitive, and give themselves a chance.

Miami comes in as the odds-on-favorites to take not only this series but the entire thing. The Heat have two of the best players to ever play basketball, the question is, will LeBron finally get his ring and silence the haters? The toughest thing for the C’s in this series, and the Heat’s biggest advantage, is how the Celtics defend James and Wade. So who is going to guard Dwayne Wade and LeBron? The short answer is anyone and everyone. You have to think Doc Rivers finally is going to utilize both Marquis Daniels and Sasha Pavlovic in this series. He has to, unfortunately, if for no other reason than to give Wade and James a different look. Don’t forget Mickael Pietrus, either. While he continues to struggle offensively, which he picked it up a bit in Game 7, he can defend. Throwing these guys in to defend LeBron and Wade is like throwing me out there, that may be a little drastic, but in all seriousness, the Celtics may be in some real trouble in this area. Don’t be surprised to see the Celtics go to a zone defense. It has worked before against Miami. Miami has other players who may be able to step up such as, Mario Chalmers, Mike Miller (who looks like he is going to keel over tomorrow), and Shane Battier. If these guys are able to help out the Big 2, the Heat have a great chance to win the series.

No one, and I mean no one, is giving the Celtics a chance in Game 1 on Monday night. Why? Because it’s in Miami and the Celtics played on Saturday and had to travel on Sunday? That’s just ridiculous. Yes, the Celtics probably should have won the Philly series in5 games, but hey, who wants to make things easy I guess, right? Back in 1984, the Lakers were extended to six games in the Western Conference finals before finally eliminating Phoenix on a Friday night. They flew to Boston on Saturday to open the NBA Finals on Sunday afternoon — and beat the rested Celtics 115-109. Few expected the 2010 Celtics to beat the Magic in the conference finals, but with only two days’ rest, they flew to Orlando and beat the well-rested Magic in Game 1. It’s not outside the realm of possibility. And who knows what may happen. Maybe Lady Luck will be on the Celtics side within this week. LeBron could get food poisoning from the local restaurant and Wade could get hit by a car, I mean you never know. There is the great unknown in any series. Someone unexpected could make a difference in a big game. Someone (Insert Celtic Player Here) could find the Fountain of Youth (hey, they’re playing in Florida, which is where Ponce de Leon thought it was located). One minor adjustment could have major consequences.

I am just going to sit back and watch this series like I do every other one. This series is close to call but I’m a Boston guy, how could I go against the hometown team. We are the City of Champions, so what the hell, I’ll take the Celtics.

  • Celtics in 7
Dates/Locations/Times of Games
Game 1
Mon 5/28
8:30 PM ET on ESPN
Game 2
Wed 5/30
8:30 PM ET on ESPN
Game 3
Fri 6/1
8:30 PM ET on ESPN
Game 4
Sun 6/3
8:30 PM ET on ESPN
Game 5
Tue 6/5
8:30 PM ET on ESPN
Game 6
Thu 6/7
8:30 PM ET on ESPN
Game 7
Sat 6/9
8:30 PM ET on ESPN