2012 NBA Playoffs

7 questions for the 2012 NBA Finals

7 questions for the 2012 NBA Finals

1. Q. On a scale of 1 to 10, how excited are you for these Finals?

A. 9. For me, anything more than a 9 would require the Lakers to be playing, with a matchup vs. the Celtics garnering the perfect 10, so this Finals matchup has me the most excited possible for one not involving the Lakers, and for good reason. These are arguably the two most talented teams in the league, and the two most entertaining when they’re on their game. Both teams showed great resilience and heart by coming from behind in the conference finals against savvy veteran opponents. Plus there’s the factor covered in question #2 below. Add these up and all the ingredients are there for a truly classic Finals.

2. Q. Is LeBron vs. Durant the best Finals matchup of players at the same position in recent history?

A. I say yes. I’m talking about matchups of players at the same position, so this leaves out the Bird vs. Magic Finals in the ’80s, Magic vs. Jordan in ’91 and Jordan vs. Barkley in ’93, among others. Considering that LeBron and Durant are considered the top two players in the league, finished #1 and 2 in MVP voting and elevated their games in the playoffs, including in conference finals comebacks, I’d give their matchup the nod over all others involving players at the same position since Russell vs. Chamberlain in ’64 and ’69.

3. Q. Which team has the coaching edge?

A. The Thunder. Remember that idiot who, before last year’s Finals, called the coaching matchup between Erik Spoelstra and Rick Carlisle a “push”? Yes, that was me. Sorry Rick, my very, very bad. The Heat somehow survived Spoelstra to get back to the Finals, and if they can somehow survive him to win the title, then maybe I’ll reconsider my view of him yet again. But unless and until that happens, I have to give the edge to Scott Brooks, who made the key adjustment (switching to Thabo Sefalosha as the primary defender on Tony Parker) to turn around the West Finals, and who also got the Thunder to improve their overall D and take better care of the ball against a Spurs squad which looked truly invincible.

4. Q. Who is the X-factor for each team?

A. Shane Battier for the Heat, Serge Ibaka for the Thunder. After a disappointing regular season, Battier made timely contributions against Indiana and stepped up with big games against Boston. The Heat will count on him to hit open 3s to stretch the Thunder’s defense, and also to at least share the defensive burden on Durant with LeBron. Ibaka has emerged as one of the premier shot-blockers in the league, but facing Chris Bosh and his resurgent perimeter stroke will be a different type of challenge. On the flip side, the Heat will be left with no answers if Ibaka can produce anything even remotely in the neighborhood of his 11-11, 26 point performance in Game 4 of the West Finals for even just a few games.

5. Q. Which player has the most riding on these Finals?

A. LeBron James. Well, duh. Two facts:

Fact #1: LeBron has excelled in the Eastern Conference playoffs on numerous occasions.

Fact #2: LeBron has yet to have a single breakout game in 10 career Finals games.

Fact #2 is the biggest reason why LeBron is considered a playoff choker in many quarters, even though his career resume in the first three rounds rivals that of anyone else in the league. LeBron has the most to lose of anyone in this series, but he also has the most to gain: a stellar Finals by him, culminating in a Heat title, would cement his status as the best player in the league bar none, and would remove the “playoff choker” stigma forever.

LeBron is such an obvious answer to this question that I should note two players on the Thunder who rate mention as well. The first, of course, is Durant, who with a stellar Finals culminating in a Thunder title would vault past LeBron to be the best player in the game. But he is just 23 and figures to be back many more times. The other is Russell Westbrook, who actually has more on the line in the sense that a bad Finals leading to a Thunder defeat could put him back in the trade rumor mill, notwithstanding his contract extension earlier this year.

6. Q. Which team will fans in Seattle be rooting for?

A. Ever since “The Decision”, the Heat have been the most hated NBA team across the country. But fans in Seattle who had their hearts ripped out when the Sonics left for Oklahoma City in 2008 have a reason to hate the Thunder even more. They may still like Durant and the other players who were in Seattle, but surely they cannot stomach the thought of Thunder ownership getting the O’Brien trophy, or of David Stern handing it to them. Don’t be surprised if last year’s “Cavs for Mavs” fan movement gets a counter-weight this year in the form of “Sonics’ Fans for Heat”.

7. Q. The 2012 NBA champion will be …

A. The Thunder. The Heat passed a major test by winning the last two games against Boston when no one thought they had it in them, and LeBron may have turned a corner with his stupendous Game 6 performance in Boston, followed by a strong fourth-quarter showing in Game 7. But the Thunder have the game’s premier crunch-time assassin in Durant, better balance and quality depth, better coaching, and the best home-court advantage in the league. For these reasons, I like the Thunder to prevail in a seven-game nailbiter that will have fans asking at the end, “What do you mean there’s no Game 8?”


42 Responses to “7 questions for the 2012 NBA Finals”

  1. My answers
    1. 10 because I am a Heat fan but also because this is such a compelling match up.

    2. Yes. Its the best I have ever seen in my lifetime(I am 25). It might turn out to be the best ever by the end of the series.

    3. Push. Spro isn’t the greatest coach although he has the team buying into his system. But neither is the Thunder coach an amazing dude. So Push.

    4. Chris Bosh for Miami. Westbrook for OKC. Westbrook can’t have a game where he chokes and fumbles the ball like he has had at different points in his playoffs. Bosh needs to be 100% for Miami to have a chance of winning because he makes their entire offense go. He draws players away from the rim which allows Wade and Lebron to drive to the rim.

    5.Lebron James. Turn on the t.v radio or look on the internet to confirm this.

    6. I think they will root for the Heat.

    7. This should be OKC…they have the better deeper team. But I am going to buck the trend and go with Miami. I believe that Lebron will buck the trend and finally play up to his level and lead Miami to a title. Wade will play better since he is getting away from Boston’s defense. Bosh will hit open jumpers and someone will step up off the bench enough of the games. I think what swings the series in Miami’s favor in the ability to get the OKC bigs in foul trouble. I like Miami having the 3 home games in a row, I think Miami can(not will but can) win all 3. Everything has to go right for this to happen but I pick Miami in 7

    Posted by nightbladehunter | June 11, 2012, 12:23 pm
    • Nightbladehunter, thanks for your reply. Regarding Wade, it is true that the Thunder’s defense is a bit less rugged than the Celtics; on the other hand, the Thunder have by far the best offense that the Heat defense has faced in these playoffs. The flip side, of course, is that the Heat have the best defense that the Thunder have faced in these playoffs. It will be interesting to watch how that particular battle unfolds.

      Posted by E-Dog | June 11, 2012, 3:42 pm
  2. Thunder in 7. The only person in this series who can even hope to contain Russell Westbrook is Russell Westbrook.

    Posted by Lochpster | June 11, 2012, 12:47 pm
    • Ah, but that’s the maddening riddle that Westbrook can sometimes pose to his own team. When he’s off, he shoots poorly and forgets to distribute, which means that he’s not only containing himself but Durant as well. Westbrook has done a better job of keeping his “off” side in check this season, but this series should be close enough that even one off game could be enough to swing it.

      Posted by E-Dog | June 11, 2012, 3:46 pm
    • What if Miami matches up Lebron with Westbrook, Wade with Harden, and Battier with Durant? Do you think those match ups in crunch time could work?

      Posted by pointguard40 | June 11, 2012, 11:17 pm
      • Pointguard40, the Heat may try Wade on Harden, but Harden has the size advantage and can just shoot over Wade. That’s why I think they’ll put Wade on Westbrook for as long as they can. Wade can’t match Westbrook’s speed or explosiveness, but Westbrook can’t simply shoot over him either, and Wade is smart enough to possibly goad Westbrook into some dumb decisions along the way.

        Posted by E-Dog | June 12, 2012, 5:31 am
  3. Beg to differ on question #2. When the Bulls met the Blazers in ’92, there were many who thought the Jordan / Drexler match up would be an intriguing battle of the top 2 shooting guards. MJ so thoroughly dominated Clyde that 1) no one remembers saying that; and 2) it took Drex a couple of years to get his confidence back.

    Posted by bringbackmalcolm | June 12, 2012, 6:50 am
    • Bringbackmalcolm, the reason I didn’t bring up Jordan-Drexler in ’92 was because while this matchup was hyped by the media, I wasn’t buying it. (I swear that I felt that way at the time and am not indulging in revisionism 20 years later.) Yes, Drexler was considered the second-best SG and player in the league-but he was a distant second. Whenever I heard the Drexler for MVP talk that season, I said to myself, “That’s hooey; the MVP is Jordan, period.” The stats back me up: their rebounds and assists were similar that year, but Jordan had significantly better scoring, shooting and steals than Drexler (30 ppg, 52% FG shooting and 2.3 steals per game for Air, 25 ppg, 47% FG shooting and 1.8 steals per game for Glide). It was clear-cut for Jordan that year, media noise be damned.

      On a side note, Jordan seemed to have a bit extra for the Finals in which he went up against a perceived rival or someone who took “his” MVP award (Magic in ’91, Drexler in ’92, Barkley in ’93 and Malone in ’97). Just further proof of what a competitive m-f-er he was.

      Posted by E-Dog | June 12, 2012, 4:03 pm
      • …. bringing you to your next post: how many MVP’s did MJ get screwed outta….?

        Posted by bringbackmalcolm | June 13, 2012, 6:58 am
        • You read my mind, bringbackmalcolm. :-) My answer: one. Jordan should have won the 1997 MVP award that went to Malone instead. It was the closest MVP vote in league history, and because of it, Jordan was denied what would have been 3 straight MVPs and a record-tying 6 overall. Of course, he settled the issue with Malone in the ’97 Finals.

          For the record, I do not think that Jordan was robbed of the MVP award in ’93; the Bulls were 10 games worse that year than the year before, and Barkley led the Suns to a 9 game improvement and the league’s best record. Of course, that didn’t stop Jordan from settling the “score” in the ’93 Finals with not only the best Finals of his career, but maybe the best playoff series by anyone, ever.

          Posted by E-Dog | June 13, 2012, 3:59 pm
          • That was a great match-up. I’m a Philly guy since the early ’80s (little did I know at age 10 that ’83 would be our high-water mark) but I was & remain a huge fan of sir Charles. Barkley and Jordan both played out of their minds in that series. Barkley was magnificent. Jordan was just a little better. Pushing the greatest player ever to his best finals ever is not anything to be ashamed of.

            Posted by Sin | June 26, 2012, 3:35 pm
  4. I think the Game 1 loss for Miami shows that unless Wade can at least play average(25-30 points per game) and do it other times then the 4th Q they are going to have a tough time winning this series.

    Also Miami has to show up and play defense. Allowing 31 point Q’s is not Miami’s way.

    Posted by nightbladehunter | June 13, 2012, 6:59 am
    • Nightbladehunter, since you’re a Heat fan, let me put it to you; if Wade struggles and the Heat lose, do you think that Riley should explore trading Wade this summer? I used to think that Wade was the one true untouchable on that team, but now I’m not so sure. The Heat have no hope of getting comparable value back for LeBron, and Bosh has shown that gee, he’s pretty damn important to the team too. Does that leave Wade as the odd man out if a roster shakeup is in order?

      As for the series, I think that the Heat will win Game 2 and take two of three in Miami before the Thunder take the last two at home. For the first time since the Big Three joined forces, the Heat are facing a team that has more talent than them, and the Thunder are mature beyond their years too.

      Posted by E-Dog | June 13, 2012, 4:07 pm
      • Wade became tradeable the moment he publicly got in Spoelstra’s face during the Pacers series. I don’t think he realized that the image of him being the face of the Miami Heat turned on a dime (though LeBron was ‘the face’ in a different, contorted way).

        Posted by bringbackmalcolm | June 14, 2012, 4:51 am
      • E-Dog as much as I hate to say it and as much as I ripped people here and on Espn earlier this season for suggesting that Wade should be traded ; I think yes if Miami loses because of Wade struggling they should explore trading him if they can get a couple of pieces back in return that are roughly of equal value. As much as I would love to see Wade finish as a Heat player, I want the team to not waste its chances to win tittles more.

        I also think(and I have been saying this for over a year now) Miami should get rid of Mike Millar. Hes not worth the amount they signed him for. If he could stay healthy he would be because he shows flashes of the player that they thought they were signing but he can’t seem to stay healthy.

        I think Miami wins game 2 as well. I just remember after game 1 in Chicago last year people were counting the Heat dead(because in today’s age people tend to read far too much into a single game) and they came back and won game 2. I think that happens again tonight and I think Bosh is going to be the one to provide the extra spark.

        I think that Wade will have 1 35-45 point game back in Miami, I think he has one of those left in him this season. His jump shot will be falling and he will be able to get the rim off of screens. Maybe they drain his knee again and it works one more time.

        Posted by nightbladehunter | June 14, 2012, 7:02 am
  5. Good game 2 by Miami. KD did get fouled on the last Thunder play no doubt. However he should have fouled out a couple of minutes earlier when he ran a Heat player over and that would have been his sixth foul. So that is a wash in my mind.

    Lebron played clutch 12 for 12 from the FT line was amazing.

    Right now I am thinking we should have Co Finals MVP’s no matter which team wins. It would be a shame if Miami wins and KD is not honored for his amazing play so far.

    Lets put it this way. I am shocked when he misses when he shoots. He is amazing.

    On a final note this is shaping up to be the battle of the big 3’s…and I think Miami has a better big 3 then OKC does.

    Posted by nightbladehunter | June 15, 2012, 7:15 am
  6. Am I the only one that sees and understands that the Heat have a real problem defending their rim?

    All those people that want to elevate Bosh to that of a “great” player need to understand that defensively he is a real liability.

    Posted by Paulie Walnuts | June 15, 2012, 9:59 am
    • Its not as bad as you think because of the speed of Miami’s defense. When its working properly it forces players inside to kick the ball back out, setting up a possible turnover. Miami defends the rim very well when they buckle down and focus. You can see this by looking at the numbers in the Pacers series, first half vs second half. Its much of the same thing vs the Thunder only this time its flipped and the defense is being played in the first half and not the second.

      Posted by nightbladehunter | June 16, 2012, 9:13 am
  7. To play Devils’ advocate:

    How do you explain squandering a 17 point lead if they defend the rim so well?

    I will acknowledge that Brooks is a great coach and will make adjustments, but if the defense is there, why the blown lead?

    Posted by Paulie Walnuts | June 16, 2012, 10:04 am
  8. Nightblade is right here, Paulie. There is a heck of a lot more to holding a lead than merely defending the rim (perimeter defense, offense, rebounding, turnovers, etc).

    The Heat have defended the rim well all season. Part of the reason is that their perimeter defenders are able to help out so much. The numbers show that their actual weakness on D is on the perimeter, and more importantly, where they’re often found out of position and have gotten drilled-no team has ever won the title with such a poor 3 point defense.

    There isn’t a team in the league that could keep Westbrook and Durant from making them look terrible at defending the rim.

    Posted by lochpster | June 17, 2012, 12:11 pm
    • Miami is weakest defending the 3 point shot. That being said they did a good job for the most part in that area last night. No one can stop KD because he can hit a shot from anywhere on the floor so it doesn’t matter how well you defend him he is going to get his points. The only thing that can stop OKC is Westbrook being Westbrook(which he is doing right now) and by that I mean not getting others involved before he looks to his own shot. He is cracking under the pressure of the NBA finals the last two games. As long as he keeps doing so Miami has a good chance of winning the series.

      Bosh isn’t fully healthy still but he is making up for his lack of offense with his extra effort on defense and rebounding. He has raised his level of play for the NBA finals. Lebron is playing great all around and his defense on KD does make a difference. He might be the only player in the league really capable of bothering KD on defense. So far Lebron is living up to his promise to leave it all on the court. He is playing pretty much the entire game each game and looking good doing it(mostly).

      Wade is sucking it up in terms of shooting % however he is making a decent effort everywhere else and he has become Miami’s point guard late in games(which I am not that happy about considering his 7 turnovers)…plus he and Lebron are hitting their FT’s which they didn’t do well in last years finals.

      Miami has played title winning defense in the closing minutes the last two games. If they can do that twice more they will another title.

      Posted by nightbladehunter | June 18, 2012, 7:51 am
  9. I agree with that. My position is that the Heat are badly outmatched in the interior.

    Posted by Paulie Walnuts | June 17, 2012, 12:29 pm
    • By most teams yes. But not by OKC. If you look at their front line vs Miami’s front line its not a missmatch at all. If this was the Lakers it would be a different story but its not. Miami has the edge due to speed and the ability to hit jumpshots(though where that ability was last night idk) which draws players away from the rim which in turn allows Miami easier access to the rim. A number of their scoring plays were dunks because they faked short shots, drew defenders to them and then found the open man under the rim. OKC has decided to double team Wade(or Lebron sometimes) and when they do that they will leave someone open. If that someone happens to be Chris Bosh(like it was a bunch last night) Miami is going to easy dunks. If its one of the 3 point shooters then Miami might get some easy 3 point buckets.

      I am happy with the fact that Miami won despite shooting as badly as it did. They will not shoot this badly again.

      Posted by nightbladehunter | June 18, 2012, 7:57 am
  10. 3-1 Miami. Hopefully they can close it out on Thursday because I don’t want the series shifting back to OKC.

    Posted by nightbladehunter | June 20, 2012, 9:09 am
  11. Congrats to Lebron, he will now be a Finals MVP, the ultimate accomplishment. Once you are a Finals MVP, no one can take that away from you. Well, some idiots will try, but they can’t really. He lead his team to a title. He’s now in the club. Enjoy it!

    Posted by Gil Meriken | June 21, 2012, 8:47 pm
    • I had a blast last night watching the game from a bar and going to title parties afterwords.

      Miami did what it needed to do and took care of things in a way I didn’t think would happen so soon. And the last game it felt like Miami was going to win the entire time. No nervous moments.

      Posted by nightbladehunter | June 22, 2012, 9:01 am
  12. Lebron’s free throw shooting in the Finals was a nice improvement to see.

    Posted by Gil Meriken | June 22, 2012, 3:13 pm
  13. Dang, it’s REAL quiet around here. Especially after an NBA Finals. I wonder why? LOL!

    Posted by ks | June 23, 2012, 4:43 pm
    • :)

      Posted by lochpster | June 23, 2012, 6:47 pm
    • I know. Its too quiet. Not in Miami though. The party is still going on. I went to a marlins game the other day and pretty much everyone was in Heat gear and talking about the finals. No one really cared about what went on with the Marlins game.

      But now the next question is how many titles can this team win? I think if they gather the right role players and everyone stays healthy Miami can win the title again last year. I don’t see anyone that can really stand in their way. I think Lebron can get even better in the post and that is a scary thought.

      Posted by nightbladehunter | June 23, 2012, 8:00 pm
      • I mean next year not last year.

        Posted by nightbladehunter | June 23, 2012, 8:00 pm
      • Do you not think OKC is a legit challenger? I think OKC lost this series in large part to a total failure of Scott Brooks to adjust. There’s no reason Kendrick Perkins should have been on the floor as much as he was during the series. As effective as Sefolosha and Ibaka and Collison are, if you get them on the floor in Perkins’ place during games 2-4, I think that it’s unlikely that the Thunder don’t at least take one of them. Perkins is great against the Lakers and Spurs, but he has no role against a small team like the Heat.

        Plus, the Heat are a pretty old and beat up bunch. I’m not sure how much Wade’s going to decline in the next few years but I am sure it’s going to happen, and I don’t know how they’re going to add new talent. They’re on the hook for Miller, Chalmers, Haslem, Anthony, James Jones, Battier, and Norris Cole through 2014-only Chalmers and Cole are likely to improve. Even if they amnesty Miller, they’ll still be over the cap. Unless Lebron, Bosh and Wade all manage to stay healthy and effective, I see this team’s window as the next 2 seasons or so.

        Conversely, almost every important player in the Thunder is young. Durant, Westbrook, Harden and Ibaka all have plenty of room to grow if OKC can keep them together, and their role players are still mostly in their primes. They’ll be scary for years to come.

        Posted by lochpster | June 24, 2012, 2:14 pm
        • Lochpster I think Miami is going to get better next year. Miami’s role players are interchangeable, the core is Lebron-Wade-Bosh. Wade will be 31 true but he he played hurt the entire playoffs almost. So he will improve just because he won’t be hurt anymore. Also Wade has accepted his role as the sidekick of the team. He knows he is the second option. So that is settled and its good for the team. As long as you put shooters around the big 3 this team is going to be deadly.

          Also Lebron keeps everyone on the team involved. He is not a selfish superstar by any means.

          I think Miami lets Miller go(or he retires) and gets out of that bad contract. For the rest its just role players those pieces can be slid in and out. Players are looking at Mike Miller going 7 for 8 from 3 point range and rubbing their hands together. I know that Ray Allan watched that game and has to be wondering what ungoldly shooting % he could shoot with Lebron kicking the ball out for open 3’s to him. Jason Terry has said that he wants to play for Miami. Both of those players would be great pickups and pretty cheap as well.

          Lebron and Bosh are in their primes, I think within the next year Bosh will become the number 2 option for Miami. Again its your stars that carry you…not your role players, those can be changed. The Bulls rotated tons of role players in for their six titles.

          The Thunder are young but I am not convinced that this group as it is can work vs a team like Miami. Its not a fluke that Miami won in 5. Miami was the better team, the far better team. First off Harden played horrible the entire series. KD didn’t come up big when it counted. Westbrook repeatly choked games away. Ibaka is like Joel Anthony with a slightly improved post game, so that is not a huge deal if they keep him. Again role players can be changed in and out.

          KD needs to get a lot stronger(more bulk) and he needs to learn to defend elite players without getting into foul trouble. Otherwise he is going to keep coming up on the short end vs Lebron.

          I think Miami has a window over the next 2 years for sure. After that it will depend on Wade’s health largely.

          Posted by nightbladehunter | June 24, 2012, 6:20 pm
          • Also if Miami keeps playing defense like it did in the finals it is going to be very hard to beat. I see a spurs like run coming up for Miami(I hope).

            Posted by nightbladehunter | June 24, 2012, 6:21 pm
          • We must have been watching far different series if you thought Miami was a far better team. In my mind, the first 4 games really could have gone either way right down until near the end. Game 5 obviously was not. In many ways it reminded me of the 2008 Finals-it was clear one team wanted it more, but I’m not sure that was the better team.

            Time will tell which of us is right, I guess.

            Posted by lochpster | June 24, 2012, 8:25 pm
          • The better team takes care of things down the stretch. The better team can rally from 17 down and complete the rally with a win. The better team has its role players step up, the better team plays great defense. Miami is the better team. First team all year to beat OKC 4 times in a row. That is not a fluke. Miami is the better team. Note the word team.

            Posted by nightbladehunter | June 26, 2012, 8:35 am
  14. As my buddy and I were discussing, there aren’t really a whole lot of compelling basketball stories out there at the moment now that Lebron’s apparently answered his critics. Durant and Westbrook are still young enough that a finals loss is allowable, nobody seems to care about Howard, Carmelo or Amare, and Kobe is fairly safe as well. Dirk made it to safety last year. Who’s in his prime with something to prove? Chris Paul? Deron Williams?

    Posted by lochpster | June 23, 2012, 6:56 pm
    • I think Dwight Howard is the next greatest who does not have a title.

      Chris Paul and Deron Williams are not the type of players that will carry your team on their backs to the title.

      Posted by Gil Meriken | June 23, 2012, 10:30 pm
      • I agree with Gil on Williams and Paul. Though both of them are superb players, they need a team around them.

        I believe that Miami is poised to improve. They will likely make some very good roster moves and the list of players now seeking to become “role” players will increase.

        Posted by Paulie Walnuts | June 24, 2012, 7:45 am
        • I agree that Dwight is the best of the have-nots, but I’m not sure why you guys don’t think Paul in particular is a championship player. He had some impressive seasons with David West as his sidekick. He nearly won the MVP in 2008, and ESPN ranked him the #4 player in the league this year, for those who care about such things. I think he’s in the top handful of point guards of all time and easily a top-5 player in the league right now.

          Posted by lochpster | June 24, 2012, 2:02 pm
    • The only thing that was even remotely interesting or noteworthy is when mark Cuban basically told Skip Bayless to his face and on air what the rest of the world with brains already knew: He is nothing but a hyperbolic douche-bag.

      And Stephen A. Smith isn’t really much better.

      The things we do for money. I’m sure everyone that works for ESPN/Disney has the same “Yuppie Nuremberg” defense.

      Posted by Paulie Walnuts | June 24, 2012, 8:01 am

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