At this time around last year Miami marched into the NBA finals, against the Dallas Mavericks, as overwhelming favorites. They had beaten Philadelphia, Boston and Chicago, winning all series in 5 games. Most predicted an easy victory for Miami, and it looked like that would be the case when James and Wade were celebrating on the court as the Heat held a 2-1 lead in the series. Three games later Miami’s dream of another championship had to be postponed at least another year.
This year has been different in so many ways. Miami walk into the finals, considered by many, as slight underdogs. Having battled through a young Indiana team in the 2nd round, and a tough conference finals against the Boston Celtics, the Heat faced several roadblocks to reach the finals.
The Oklahoma City Thunder have home court advantage, and the series will start in Oklahoma. The finals format is 2-3-2, which means that Miami will play 3 straight at home (if needed) after the first 2 games in Oklahoma.
Keys to the game
Game 1 is always a kind of a “feeler” game for both teams. Both OKC and Miami faced very different teams in the conference finals, and it will be interesting to see as to who is able to set the tone from the start, and adjust to the higher pace.
After losing the first two games to the Spurs in the western conference finals, OKC have been nothing short of spectacular, winning 4 games in a row. They did this against a team that, seemingly, had no weaknesses and that most people started crowning as champions after the first two games. The Spurs were exposed and obliterated by the young legs of OKC, and they will be looking to carry that momentum into the finals.
Miami were in a very similar situation. They had lost at home and went down 3-2 in the eastern conference finals against Boston, and the it looked like the Heat were going to have an early exit in this year’s playoffs. After several spectacular performances by James, Miami went on to win at Boston and at home to make the finals. Both teams battled adversity in these playoffs and that is why this series won’t be over until it’s over. Both teams have come back in games where they trailed by double digits, and it will be a marvellous sight to see these two resilient teams go at each other.
OKC are undefeated at home in this postseason, and it will be very tough for Miami to steal this one, who are usually mediocre away from South Beach. Miami’s biggest advantage is experience, as they were all right here last year. This will be LeBron’s 3rd finals, and as we know, Wade already won a ring in 2006. As much as Durant & Co. have grown, it will be interesting to see how they tackle the nerves in their first finals together.
OKC undoubtedly have a great advantage in the paint when Bosh is on the bench. If Erik Spoelstra decides to let Bosh come off the bench, OKC should be able to get off to a good start, and look to get the ball into the paint. Both OKC and Miami have had several rocky starts in games, during this postseason, so the start off the game could very well be very indicative of the final result.
Chris Bosh has played well in the last two games, and is coming off a great game 7. Look for him to get involved as early as possible to take the pressure of LeBron and Wade.