2012 NBA Finals Series Odds and Predictions – Miami Heat vs Oklahoma City Thunder Picks and Series Price: Somewhere, NBA commissioner David Stern has a big smile on his face. The two biggest stars in the league will take center stage in the NBA Finals, when LeBron James and the Miami Heat face Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder. James is a three-time MVP, Durant has won three straight scoring titles, but neither player has won a championship. The level of talent and athleticism on the court during the series is going to be the best it has been in recent memory, and with all the star power on both sides, the ratings are sure to be through the roof. From an individual standpoint, the series is a chance for James and Durant to prove who is the top player in the game. From a team standpoint, the winning franchise becomes the frontrunner to be the NBA’s next dynasty. Whichever side ultimately prevails, the NBA is definitely going to win.
Although it took a furious comeback on the part of Miami against Boston in the Eastern Conference semifinals, the Heat have reached the NBA Finals for the second year in a row as most experts predicted. After losing in the Western Conference finals two years in a row, it was only a matter of time before the Thunder got a chance to play for a title. Now, Miami has another chance to win the title that was supposed to be a foregone conclusion when James came to South Beach. However, Oklahoma City has a chance to topple the Heat dynasty before it ever begins. With both teams winning on their home court in a pair of regular season meetings, the series should be a competitive one.
The battle between James and Durant is obviously going to be crucial. Not only are both players the best for their respective teams, but both will likely be guarding each other for most of the series. James is averaging a playoff-best 30.8 points per game, while Durant ranks third with 27.8 per game. Both players are knocking down more than 50 percent of their shots, as well. James has been the better all-around player, but not by as much as some might think. He is averaging 9.6 rebounds and 5.1 assists in the postseason, while Durant is averaging 7.9 boards and 4.2 helpers. Prior to the Boston series, the edge in crunch time would have gone to Durant. However, James had two monster performances against the Celtics to save Miami’s season, proving his ability to close out big games in the process. With James also being the better defender out of the two superstars, a slight edge has to go the reigning MVP.
That being said, Oklahoma City has plenty of other matchups where it should be able to capitalize. While both sides have elite secondary scorers in Russell Westbrook for OKC and Dwyane Wade for Miami, Westbrook could be primed for a huge series. Boston point guard Rajon Rondo torched the Heat defense throughout their semifinal series, and Westbrook is faster and a much better offensive player than Rondo. The Thunder also have a size advantage inside with power forward Serge Ibaka and center Kendrick Perkins going against a smaller and thinner Miami frontcourt. Last but not least, Oklahoma City is a deeper team and has Sixth Man of the Year James Harden coming off the bench to provide plenty of added offensive firepower. Even if James does end up being the best player on the court, there is a good chance the Thunder can still be the better team.
Free throw shooting could play a surprisingly large role in deciding the outcome. Both teams are excellent at attacking the basket and getting to the foul line. In fact, James is averaging more free throw attempts per game than any other player in the postseason, and Miami is averaging the most attempts as a team. However, the Thunder aren’t far behind in attempts, and after leading the NBA in team free throw percentage during the regular season, OKC is back on top in the postseason. The Thunder are shooting 83.5 percent from the foul line, while the Heat are shooting just 72.3 percent. In close games, a few misses here and there can add up.
The X-factor in the game could be Miami power forward Chris Bosh. After missing most of the postseason with an injury, he returned just in time to help the Heat eliminate Boston. In fact, Bosh had a big game in the Game 7 victory that sent Miami back to the NBA Finals. Bosh isn’t a physical big man, but he does have enough height to help the Heat hold their own against the bigger OKC frontcourt. He also has a solid outside jumper that will pull Perkins and Ibaka away from the hoop and open up driving lanes for Wade and James. He may be the forgotten member of Miami’s trio of stars, but he could be the reason the Heat end up winning it all.
In the end, the size, firepower and home-court advantage of the Thunder are just going to be too much for James and company to overcome. The Thunder haven’t lost a postseason game at home during these playoffs, and they probably aren’t going to. Even another 45-point outburst from James like he had against Boston doesn’t guarantee Miami a win in this series. Durant, Westbrook and Harden can all score 30-plus points on any given night, and Oklahoma City loves to play the same up-tempo style that the Heat try to establish. The Thunder are every bit the athletic, high-scoring group the Heat are, and Miami’s lack of depth in the paint and at the point guard position is going to haunt them.
Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder Win in 6 Games
Miami Heat vs Oklahoma City Thunder Series Price
Miami Heat +148
Oklahoma City Thunder -168
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