2012 NBA Finals Preview: Miami Heat vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
The Miami Heat advanced to the NBA Finals for the second consecutive year by eliminating the Boston Celtics, 101-88, in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Saturday. The Heat will play the Oklahoma City Thunder, the NBA's Western Conference champions, in the 2012 NBA Finals, starting Tuesday night in Oklahoma City.
The Heat and Thunder split the season series between the teams 1-1. Here's what each team needs to do to win the 2012 NBA Finals.
2012 NBA Finals – Miami Heat vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
Game 1: Tuesday, June 12, 9 p.m. (EDT); Chesapeake Energy Arena – Oklahoma City, OK; ABC-TV
See the full series schedule.
What the Heat Must Do to Win the 2012 NBA Finals
Drive to the Basket — As LeBron James and Dwayne Wade go, so go the Miami Heat. Unfortunately, both superstars can sometimes struggle when shooting from the floor. Oklahoma City plays very good defense and fills the passing lanes. James and Wade must drive to the basket and force the Thunder front court of Kevin Durant, Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka to choose between foul trouble or allowing easy baskets.
Contain Russell Westbrook — Oklahoma City has a tremendous edge in the point guard match-up in this series. When he's playing in control, as he did over the last four games of the Western Conference Finals, the Thunder's Russell Westbrook can create havoc on offense and defense. He's an excitable player, so Miami's Mario Chalmers may want to try to lean on him a bit and get him off his game. Chalmers must give the Heat some production on the offensive end, at least enough to keep Westbrook and others from easily helping on James and Wade.
Force Kevin Durant Into Bad Shots — The Thunder's Kevin Durant is an incredible scorer. He may have the best shooting range of any current NBA player. Miami must rotate fresh defenders on to Durant so that he rarely has a clear look from his favorite shooting spots. Still, Durant will score 20 per game; Miami must keep him under 30.
What the Thunder Must Do to Win the 2012 NBA Finals
Unleash James Harden — The NBA's Sixth Man of the Year gives Oklahoma City the edge in bench strength. What Harden must do is find a way to score when Miami has both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook covered. Already averaging 17.6 points per game in the playoffs, Harden is capable of turning a game around in seconds. The Heat may not have an answer for him.
Be Physical — Miami's Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem do not stack up against the Thunder's physical duo of Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins. Ibaka and Perkins have to dominate the rebounding at both ends of the floor and get back on run-outs so that James and Wade never score an easy basket.
Get in LeBron James' Head — LeBron James has played like the MVP that he is. Until he gets an NBA title, James will carry pressure around with him to succeed, and it will get greater with every loss in this 2012 NBA Finals. If Oklahoma City can get ahead in this series, the pundits will start pecking at James. That could be enough to tip the series their way.