The Oklahoma City Thunder beat the San Antonio Spurs 107-99 last night in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals to advance to the NBA Finals.
The Miami Heat and Boston Celtics are still playing in the Eastern Conference to determine their representative. The Celtics are currently up 3-2 in the series and will be playing Game 6 on their home floor tonight.
Who would the Thunder rather see in the Finals?
The Thunder went 1-1 against the Heat in the regular season and 2-0 against the Celtics. In either matchup, the Thunder would be favored with home court and based on how much better they have been playing than both of them in the playoffs.
“Whoever we play, (it’s) two great teams,” Kevin Durant said. “We can’t rely 100 percent on our crowd. We’ve just got to come out there and start the game off with a lot of energy. It’s going to be a tough rough for us, and we’re looking forward to that opportunity. It’s a great feeling right now, but tomorrow we’ve just got to get over it and get ready to see who we play.”
The NBA and the world probably wants to see Miami make it to the Finals to play the Thunder. Because then we would get LeBron vs. Durant.
The Heat could be a very tough matchup for the Thunder though. They are similar teams in their makeups and the positions that their stars play and you could argue that Miami’s stars are better and more experienced.
LeBron would make for the toughest possible matchup for Kevin Durant. LeBron has become one of the best defenders in the NBA and would particularly be able to have success against Durant using his size and strength on him. LeBron has also historically outplayed Durant when the two have gone head-to-head.
Beyond Durant and LeBron, the Thunder are a deeper team than Miami. The Heat are thin up front while the Thunder have good size and would win the physicality battle in the series.
But even if the Thunder could have some matchup advantages against the Heat, sometimes talent is a more important factor. The Thunder have advanced to the NBA Finals largely because they have been much more talented than their opponents. That wouldn’t be the case against Miami which could make it a tougher matchup than Boston.
The Thunder will be the lesser experienced team in the NBA Finals no matter who the matchup. The Celtics won a title back in 2008 and the fact that they’ve “been there before” could make them a tough out for the Thunder.
Boston is not very deep though and banged up. The Thunder are perfectly healthy and have a deeper, more consistent rotation than the Celtics.
The key matchup would be Rajon Rondo and Russell Westbrook. They’d be playing the same position but in two totally different ways.
Rondo has proven that even against a team with LeBron James, he can emerge as the best player on the court in any given game and lead his team to victory. He would have a much tougher task having to defend Westbrook on the other end of the court which could make dominating more difficult for him.
Aside from Rondo and Westbrook, the Thunder pretty much have the advantage in every other aspect against the Celtics. Like with the Spurs, it would come down to the Thunder just being more talented. It would seem experience would be the greatest advantage for the Celtics but that hasn’t phased the Thunder yet in these playoffs.
Whoever the Thunder play, if they win the title it will be considered very legitimate. The Heat and Celtics have had their injuries that they’ve dealt with but the road Oklahoma City took through the Western Conference ranks as a 10 in degree of difficulty.
But if it isn’t LeBron and the Heat, an NBA championship would be a little less sweet. If Durant gets the chance to conquer LeBron for a title, it will immediately rank up there as one of the greatest championships in NBA history.
The Thunder don’t care who they play though. They’re just ready to begin the NBA Finals and will come to play every single night like they have been all year. Something the Heat and the Celtics can’t say they have done.
Game 1 of the NBA Finals will be Tuesday night at 9 p.m. EST on ABC. The Thunder could find out as early as tonight who they will be playing as the Celtics look to close out the Heat at home at 8:30 p.m. EST on ESPN.