The Oklahoma City Thunder and the Miami Heat played twice in a recent 10-day span with both teams protecting their home courts and both teams’ stars outplaying the other at home.
Kevin Durant and LeBron James each had great games when their team won and struggled in the losses.
With three weeks left in the regular season no two teams have looked better than the Thunder and Heat and a meeting of the two in the NBA Finals would be nothing short of epic. No other teams can throw out the talent that these two have and it’s looking like there may be some bad blood brewing between them.
In the most recent meeting that Miami won, the Thunder committed two hard fouls on Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. Russell Westbrook’s flagrant foul on James in the open floor from behind could have been perceived as dirty by some and Perkins’ foul on Wade was simply no surprise.
The chippiness goes back to last season too when Durant called the Heat “fake tough guys.” Even though they are, that rubbed Miami players the wrong way and they definitely haven’t forgotten as Wade referred to the comment in the post game after Sunday’s matchup.
Now both teams have obstacles in their way toward making it to the NBA Finals. The Chicago Bulls still have the best record in the NBA and if Derrick Rose is healthy will be no slouch for the Heat. The San Antonio Spurs may be playing better than any team in the NBA right now but their advantages in this regular season will lesser in a 7-game series against the Thunder.
So if the Thunder and Heat play in the NBA Finals, who will win?
Both teams have enough star power that you wouldn’t immediately question either winning. Both teams are also among the best defensive teams in the NBA especially when they are locked in, which both should be during the playoffs.
Both teams also have questions surrounding them like the high usage rate of Westbrook and James’ knack of shrinking in big moments.
The Thunder are relatively young and inexperienced as far as their best four players go but they are also the one team that can match the Heat’s strengths.
Miami is soft inside and gets beat on the boards a lot and the Thunder have the tough guys inside to exploit this. Rebounding can be as important as anything when it comes to winning a championship and the Thunder have the edge in that department.
For the most part both teams are belt similarly. They each have three players that they rely on to do most of the scoring and their two best don’t exactly fit perfectly in either case.
The Thunder has one more win than the Heat this season and they have the same number of losses. Home court will be a big deal. The Thunder have the best home crowd in the NBA and their young players play better at home and drop off more than most on the road.
If these two meet in the Finals it will probably come down to three things: who wins the battle of the paint, home court and Durant vs. LeBron.
The Thunder can pretty much count on the first one. They should dominate inside and the only thing that would stop this from happening would be an amazing effort from James and Wade of getting to the line in the series.
Home court is a close one right now. The Thunder have one less game left than the Heat and have lost their last two. Oklahoma City also has a 5-game road trip left on their schedule. Miami also has the advantage of having to deal with the much weaker Eastern Conference opponents for the rest of the regular season.
When it comes to Durant and LeBron so far it’s 1-1. You’d have to think that James has the edge over Durant in this matchup. He’s been in the league much longer and has been to the Finals twice. He is a better matchup defending Durant because he can be physical with him.
The odds seem to stack against the Thunder more than they do the Heat. This makes sense and again it is really just amazing how far the Thunder have come as a team so quickly. That they are in the same class as the Miami Heat.
We saw last year a different LeBron James in the NBA Finals. That’s really the Thunder’s best chance if they have to play the Heat this year and they saw that LeBron the first time they played the Heat in the regular season this year. Durant is a sneaky good matchup on defense against LeBron and the bright lights might change LeBron from the MVP to some guy who doesn’t want to be on the court.
One thing is certain if this series happens and that is that it will be the most entertaining NBA Finals possible this year. It will have everything and should go six or seven games. Legacies will be on the line. There might be a new “best player in the NBA” when all is said and done.