Miami Heat at Oklahoma City Thunder -5 (Total: 195.5)
** Game One – NBA FINALS
We, and when I say “we” I mean basketball fans and the nation at large, finally get the matchup we have been waiting for. The Miami Heat and three-time MVP Lebron James squares off against three-time reigning scoring champion Kevin Durant and the young, explosive and talented Oklahoma City Thunder. The matchup marks only the 12th time in NBA history the top two vote-getters in the MVP ballot will meet in the Finals, and the first since 1998 when Karl Malone took on Michael Jordan.
By no means are the two stars the only stars in this series; Jame Harden, Russell Westbrook, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade amplify the star power significantly, and even the so-called “role players” are bringing some impressive names and resumes with Serge Ibaka, Shane Battier, Mike Miller, Mario Chalmers, Kendrick Perkins, and Thabo Sefolosha all having either some acclaim in college or some post-season success to make their names jump out to the casual fan.
All in all, this has the potential to be one of the best and most exciting NBA Finals ever… but the important question is, who has the edge and who will win the Larry O’Brien Trophy??
Miami enters the series having silenced even some of the staunchest critics after Lebron James authored two of the finest pressure-packed games in NBA Playoff history. This is the second time in a row the Heat will play on the NBA’s biggest stage, and it appears they finally have the poise and temerity to handle the moment. If Lebron wasn’t “clutch” in Games 6 and 7, then I have NO idea what “clutch” means anymore. He was simply dominant. In short, he was the MVP.
For Oklahoma City, their young MVP candidate certainly bolstered his resume in the past series as well. Durant, in a much different but equally effective way, was every bit as dominant as Lebron James. His 16-straight point fourth quarter in Game Five tipped the critical game in the Thunder’s favor, and likely catapulted them to their first NBA Finals since moving (fleeing?) Seattle. However it was the ridiculous clutch shooting of James Harden that sealed the deal. With Harden’s emergence, the Heat are going to need a great defensive series from Shane Battier or else they are going to be saddled with a mismatch on whomever Lebron and Wade don’t cover from OKC’s three big guns.
The regular season (for what it’s worth… and in many estimations, it isn’t much) went in OKC’s favor. They split the season series, but Oklahoma City completely dominated them in their home matchup while Miami won a close ballgame down in South Beach.
I think this is going to be a ridiculously athletic, highlight-filled and thrilling series. I would lean Miami if forced a prediction for the series overall, but really want to see them matchup on the floor before making a definitive statement. For tonight, I like the fact that Miami is getting a nice fat five and half points (five in most online books, but there are a few places to get that extra half-point still – look for it, you might need it). If Lebron can remain in the angry/focused/calm/intense bizarre zone he has played in the last two games, I wouldn’t be surprised if Miami can steal one and stun the OKC faithful in Game One. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Harden or Durant makes a dagger bucket in the last thirty seconds to seal it.
Either way, I like a good ballgame tonight, so give me the Heat with the points.
Free Pick: Miami Heat +5.5