2012 NBA Finals Preview – Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Miami Heat

Two teams. Two sets of expectations. Two paths. One destination.  When the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Miami Heat face off in the 2012 NBA Finals, many fans will get the matchup that they anticipated.  Both teams are exciting to watch and are arguably playing their best basketball as they head into the final round of the playoffs.  Perhaps it’s not the matchup that everyone thought they would see when the playoffs first started, but one Derrick Rose injury and San Antonio Spurs upset later, we are blessed with the most exciting and dynamic playoff matchup possible.

A Tale of Two Cities

The two host cities (Oklahoma City and Miami) are nearly polar opposites.  One sits basked by the sun, a cultural and entertainment hot spot with white sandy beaches while the other sits in America’s heartland, surrounded by farms and wide open spaces.  But don’t take these OKC residents lightly as Charles Barkley did.  They are just as educated and witty as they are hardworking – and what’s more – they love their Thunder.  Miami fans, on the other hand, have a stigma for being a little fair weather.  But when the skies are clear, they are just as passionate and raucous as any fans in America.

[ad name=”GAS-Blog-Banner”]

A Tale of Two Superstars

For years, the Miami Heat belonged to Dywane Wade.  He won a championship with Shaq at his side, but was trying his hardest to win a championship on his own. Dywane is the kind of player who doesn’t mind playing in someone else’s spotlight, so long as he wins a championship.  So it was no surprise when he welcomed LeBron James with open arms, when the ex-Cavalier made the announcement that he would be taking his talents to South Beach and join the heat.  Since that day, it has been LeBron’s team and somewhat rightfully so.  He is the reigning MVP and one of the premier offensive AND defensive players at his position…any position for that matter.  James seems to love the attention and feed off of it, probably a big part of the reason why he left Cleveland, a relatively small market, to play in front of the lights and the cameras in Miami.  Any normal player would be heralded for leading his team to consecutive NBA Finals, but we demand more out of LeBron.  He is the “Jordan” of the new generation.  He is the chosen one.  He needs this title.

On the other hand is Kevin Durant, whose personality and demeanor almost seem a perfect match for Oklahoma City.  Now in his fourth year in the league, Durant has three regular season scoring titles on his mantle, but never a trip to the Finals – this is a brand new experience for him.  While his personality is unassuming, his tenacity and competitiveness is on par with that of Kobe, Jordan, and even LeBron.  The fans in OKC (and around the world) want to know whether he has what it takes to win a championship though.  Regular season scoring titles will only get you so far in the record books and any true competitor feels the need to have a championship on their resume.

They both want championships, they both lead their team in different ways, and they both demand attention.

A Tale of Two Styles

Both teams play similar styles, but go about it in different ways.  At the forefront of both the Heat and the Thunder’s minds are the words “Attack.”  Neither of these teams will wow you with their ball movement, or even ball security, but they get to the rim, they get to the free throw line, and they are nearly impossible to defend.  Both teams are relatively young and can get up and down the court quickly.  And while it may not seem like it at first glance, both of these teams success comes from the defensive end.  Steals lead to transition for the Thunder. Solid rebounding leads to quick outlets and fast breaks for the Heat. Furthermore, two of the best charge-takers in these playoffs will be squaring off – Nick Collison for the Thunder and Shane Battier for the Heat.  Both have the ability to change the course of a game and influence the other team’s attacking style.

[ad name=”GAS-Blog-Banner”]

A Tale of Two Stat Lines

Offensive Stat Comparison

TEAM

PTS

FG%

3P%

FT%

Oklahoma City

103.1

47.1%

35.8%

80.6%

Miami

98.5

46.9%

35.9%

77.5%

Defensive Stat Comparison

TEAM

PTS

FG%

3P%

Steals

Oklahoma City

96.9

42.7%

34.2%

7.5

Miami

92.5

43.4%

36.3%

8.9

During the regular season, OKC scored significantly more points per game than Miami, but they shot about the same percentage from the field and behind the arc.  OKC got to the line more often and shot better once they were there, which accounts for much of the point difference.  Defensively, Miami allowed far fewer points per game than OKC, although opponents shot marginally better against the Heat than they did against the Thunder.  Miami was able to generate roughly 1.5 steals more per game than the Thunder were able to which helped the Heat limit their opponents chances at scoring.  Regular season statistics indicate that this will be a tightly contested series, but in the NBA Finals, anything can happen.  We only know one thing – whether this series goes 4 games or 7, it will be one of the most entertaining NBA Finals in recent memory.

About Aaron Garcia

Aaron is an avid sports fan who passionately follows the NFL, NBA and MLB, in addition to NCAA Sports. He is an Arizona State University grad who loves the Dodgers and the Patriots.