The NBA finals are finally upon. This gloriously inglorious, cluttered to the point of brutality, NBA season has finally reached a head.
On one side we have the Miami Heat.
On the other the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The self-glossed, self-inflated pomposity of a team with the audacity to promise 7 NBA titles before they had played a game and the skill-set to make some immediately nod their heads in agreement when they heard the bold proclamation.
The young, hungry, terrifyingly athletic group lead by a modest wunderkind, a supremely confident point guard and a beard that would make Rick Ross say, “Wait. . .what?”
Oklahoma City has Kevin Durant, the best scorer in the world. Miami has LeBron James, the best player in the world. Durant is relatively new to the spotlight, or as much as any 3-time scoring champ who was the 2nd overall draft pick can be, while LeBron’s chef’s third cousin is completely and thoroughly accustomed to being a topic of heated media discussion. (*Author’s note: Skip Bayless would verbally attempt to impale him and Stephen A. Smith would slam down the race card like he just hit Blackjack at a million dollar table.)
Both have elite level talent at the top-end of their rosters. Both have coaches that are, at the very minimum, serviceable in most situations and have been proven to be very good at times. In short, the NBA finals this year should be fascinating, dramatic, and a great watch for sports fans of all makes and models.
Here are a few key storylines that I’m interested in watching during this year’s NBA Finals:
The Big 3²
(*Author’s note: please excuse me. I’ve just discovered how to make the “squared” sign on a PC. ². Sorry. Last time.)
At this point we’re all pretty tired of hearing about the “Big 3″ on each of these teams, but their impact on their teams cannot be overstated. On Miami it’s James, Dwyane Wade, and velociraptor mongoliensis Bosh. With the Thunder it’s Durant, James Harden and The Russell West-B in Apt. 23.
We know Durant and James will be gigantic in this series. But what about the other parts of the equation for each team?
Will the VeBoshiraptor be healthy? Or will he play like he just got capped by Robert Muldoon? Will anyone put up with me continually yelling, “Shoot heeer!” everytime Bosh makes a play? The key to the Heat’s resurgence in the Boston series was Bosh’s return and, eventually, his return to form.
Will Harden continue to wreak havoc off the bench, or will the Heat’s athletic, swarming perimeter defense slow him down? Will his beard trump LeBron’s moving beard-tribute to the 16th President of the United States. (*Author’s note: I’m still 94% convinced that LeBron’s beard is somehow an elaborate cross-promotion for the Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer movie.)
(*Secondary Author’s note: that’s still the second best tribute to Abe in the NBA. Here’s the first.)
The Russell West-B in Apt. 23 and Dwyane Wade will play crucial second-fiddles in this series. While I have no doubt that Westbrook can score with Wade, it will be interesting to watch his matchup with Mario Chalmers and see if he’s able to be his usual explosive self.
The Coaching Matchup
It’s been well-documented that Heat coach Eric Spoesltra could be on the hot-seat. He’s found himself in the wholly unenviable position of being damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t, and totally f-ed if the Heat don’t deliver this time around.
Scoliam Neebrooks is facing his own kind of pressure. While not nearly to the submarine-hull-at-Marianas-trench-bottom PSI that Spoelstra’s facing, this dead ringer for Liam Neeson needs to conjure his inner Col. Hannibal and come up with a plan that comes together. How do you slow down LeBron, his go-to-gyu (*Author’s note: intentional typo alert) Dwyane Wade, and the VeBoshiraptor? Seeing how he utilizes the young talent off the bench and his bigs will be something to keep an eye on.
I’m not normally one to harp on the referees. I’m not one of those people who think the league is rigged (*Author’s note: *cough* *cough* New Orleans wins the lottery *cough*) and I’m one of those people who thinks that as long as we keep trying to seamlessly incorporate technological advancement into the refereeing of sports we can cut these guys a little slack.
However the free throws could play a huge role in this series. Will LeBron be at the line longer than a virgin waiting on The Hunger Games to come out? Or will Durant get more freebies than a college football player attending USC? Hopefully the refs stay the hell out of the way, like good refs should and can keep the flopping to a minimum.
It’s not a defensive formation that will automatically elicit a technical foul, nor is it some weird lingo for a new reality show that features a group of two bros, three frenemies and two hipsters who are all piled into a shack in the wilderness, a handgun, and a potential alien that is hidden among them. (*Author’s note: but I’m sure that Fox has that one in the works)
What that refers to is the NBA’s championship format. It’s different from the other rounds and lends itself to big trouble for the Thunder should they lose either game one or game two. The team that wins game one wins the series 72% of the time. OKC has a great home crowd. Miami has a crowd. The Thunder have a significant homecourt advantage and it will be interesting to see if this format helps or hinders them in their quest.
I’ll have more coverage of this, hopefully, amazing series. Keep tuning in and I’ll keep gushing.