1) The Heat will steal Game 1 on Tuesday
The winner of Game 1 of the NBA Finals goes onto win the series over 70% of the time. Unfortunately, the Heat won Game 1 versus the Mavericks last year and entered the wrong side of that equation. Still, Miami is going to be riding a wave of momentum following their Game 7 victory over Boston. That’s not to say that the Thunder won’t be ready, but look for the Finals experience of the Heat to show up in Game One. You simply can’t underestimate the importance of Miami playing in the NBA Finals just a year ago.
2) LeBron James will outduel Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant and Lebron James have been nothing short of spectacular during these playoffs. During their respective post season runs, Durant and James are both shooting over 50% from the field (50.5%-Durant, 51.2%-James). Durant has been extremely impressive during 4th quarter play, and has taken his place among the premier closers in the game. James has been equally impressive, continuing to fill the stat sheet the same way he has the entire season. True basketball enthusiasts will be treated to a rare and special matchup during these NBA Finals with both player facing off. We like James to get the best of this matchup.
3) The Heat will have no answer for Russell Westbrook
Westbrook could hold the key to the success of the Thunder in this series. He represents the team’s biggest positional advantage versus the Heat. Although he posted relatively below average numbers versus Miami during the regular season (especially from the field where he shot just 31%), he should excel in all facets of his game versus the likes of Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole. Chalmers is going to have to adapt to Westbrook’s style of play, especially after facing the Celtics Rajon Rondo for the past seven games. Whereas Rondo looks to get his teammates involved first (I would say around 75% of the time), Westbrook is the complete opposite. He looks to attack at every opportunity and the Heat just don’t have the personnel to contain him.
4) Scott Brooks will outcoach Erik Spoelstra
You would think that Erik Spoelstra would have some job security by guiding the Heat to back to back NBA Finals appearances the last two seasons (.622 winning % during coaching tenure with Heat). The fact of the matter is however, Spoelstra will continue to be on the hot seat until Miami delivers on their promise of an NBA title. Scott Brooks has developed into one of the premier head coaches in the league. He made key adjustments after the Thunder dropped the first two games in San Antonio last series. Look for him to get the upper hand on Spoelstra during the Finals.
5) Chris Bosh will log heavy minutes during the Finals
Fresh off his impressive Game 7 performance versus the Celtics (19 points), look for Bosh to log heavy minutes against the Thunder during the NBA Finals. After missing nine games during these playoffs (abdomen), Bosh appears to be close to 100%. You can see how much more potent the Heat are on both sides of the floor when Bosh is on the court. If he can stay healthy during these Finals, Miami will become less one dimensional on offense (well, actually two dimensional-Wade & James).
6) James Harden will score more points than Dwayne Wade
Aside from James versus Durant, this will be the best matchup of the series. Harden and Wade will be matched up against each other for key moments throughout these Finals and something tells me that Harden is going to get the better of this matchup. The Thunder guard has been battle tested throughout these playoffs, especially the last two rounds. He has squared off against two of the premier postseason performers of recent memory (Kobe Bryant & Manu Ginobili), and done an admirable job. Scott Brooks isn’t afraid to put the ball in Harden’s hands with the game on the line.
7) The Thunder will average under 95 points per game during these Finals
Oklahoma City led all teams during this postseason with 102.3 points per game and have hit the century mark in 10 out of their 15 playoff games. Their ability to dictate tempo throughout this series will be vital to their success. With a healthy Chris Bosh, we think the Heat have the personnel to slow down the Thunder; especially in the half court. Remember, Boston is the only team to post 100 points in a game versus Miami this postseason and the Heat are holding their opponents to a meager 88 points per game. Something has to give.
Prediction: After watching the Thunder march through the Western Conference Finals, they appear to be on the brink of not only an NBA championship, but a dynasty in the making. Yet, something tells me that LeBron James will have an absolutely sensational performance during these Finals. I truly believe that the Thunder have the more complete team, however James will not be denied at his third attempt for an NBA title. The “King” will finally deliver!
Miami Heat in 6 Games
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