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5 Things to Watch: Heat-Thunder, a potential Finals preview worth playing

Mar 25, 2012, 6:30 PM EDT

Oklahoma City Thunder v Miami Heat Getty Images


Best in the East vs. best in the West.

Nope, that’s not right.

The two clearly best teams in the league.

Well, no, not really with how open the West is.

OK, how about just:

A more-probable-than-on-average chance that these two teams will meet in the Finals. There. Sufficiently hedged.

The Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder meet Sunday night in a clash of the titans. It’s probably the biggest game of the Thunder’s season, considering the Lakers’ slip back when the Thunder played them earlier this season. It’s the first of two Sunday games against the best in the East, with Chicago on tap next weekend, though it’s not known if Derrick Rose will be back for that game. But all the stars will be in the rotation tonight, and here’s a look at five things to watch as the Heat face the Thunder in OKC.

1. James Harden, the perfect problem for both sides. 

As our own Rob Mahoney points out at Bleacher Report, the Thunder face a problem of offense/defense with Harden. They are an infinitely better team offensively with Harden on the floor and a phenomenally better defensive team with Thabo Sefolosha on the floor instead. Can Harden check LeBron James or Dwyane Wade? His lateral quickness is limited against good perimeter penetration, let alone James and Wade. Even putting him against Mario Chalmers is problematic because of how Chalmers spaces the floor and can slip out for open threes. But Harden’s playmaking ability can make the Heat’s defense overreact, and if that happens the system breaks down. Harden needs to command the offense and make an impact in the passing lanes for OKC.

2. No role players needed

The over/under in this game is 201.5. Over/under on point scored by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, James Harden, Kevin Durant, and Russell Westbrook should be 160. They just don’t get much support, nor need it. If Serge Ibaka, Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier, Thabo, any role player steps up, that’s going to swing the balance of this game. The stars can almost cancel out one another. It’s the role players that may dictate the win.

3. Overturned

The Thunder have the worst turnover ratio in the league, spitting the ball up 15 percent of the time, and turning their opponent over the seventh least. The Heat are a monster in transition, a Flying Death Machine. The Thunder cannot spit the ball up against this team. Possessions are going to be precious and while both teams can play at a fast pace, each side is so good, you need to not give up easy buckets.

4. Does Oklahoma allow block parties?

Serge Ibaka and Kenrick Perkins have a huge advantage down low, even without offensive talent to be spoken of. Joel Anthony and Udonis Haslem are not great offensive finishers at this point, and Perkins and Ibaka are monsters at challenging. Anthony and Haslem need to convert some buckets to get the Thunder help defenders to back off. If Ibaka and Perkins can freelance, they can attack the Heat at the rim and get them to the line where they’re not great. Nick Collison and Cole Nazr Mohammed can help.

5. Bosh space

Of course the big problem for Ibaka and Perkins is trying to guard in space, and the best player on the Heat in face-up mid-range is Chris Bosh. He’s able to raise up and knock down shot face-up and also on the pick and pop. If Lebron, Wade, or Chalmers use the pick and roll to draw that coverage from Ibaka who too often freaks out going for a block, Bosh can slice them up. Bosh has been phenomenal this season, an underrated part of the Heat’s season, and this is a game where he could have a monster day without doing the things he struggles at down low. He can kill the Thunder softly if they don’t adjust. Expect a lot of Collison on him if Ibaka struggles.

  1. jumbossportsblog - Mar 25, 2012 at 6:31 PM

    Reblogged this on jumbossportsblog.

    • eugenesaxe - Mar 25, 2012 at 7:52 PM

      Nobody cares.

  2. lakerluver - Mar 25, 2012 at 6:59 PM

    Neither team will make the NBA Finals. LAKERS vs Bulls.

  3. glink123 - Mar 25, 2012 at 7:14 PM

    You lose all credibility when bury your Miami homerosity needle on full-homer like this. I feel like I’m wasting my time reading some 12 year old’s blog. Your Miami team, that is so clearly the best team in the East, is currently 3 games out of first, with only 16 games remaining.

  4. rodge1 - Mar 25, 2012 at 7:26 PM

    Yes, the Bulls are clearly the best in the east. Look how they handled Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals last year… Oh wait, they lost in 5 games and haven’t gotten much better. Hate the Heat all you want for whichever ignorant reason. But don’t post dumb comments. Lakers suck too….. GO Heat

    • packersareandwillalwaysbebetterthanthebears - Mar 25, 2012 at 8:08 PM

      You just proved yourself wrong, rodge1. Saying that the Bulls “are” the best team but using how they “handled” Miami. Last year. They might not have gone out and signed Shane Battier or drafted Norris Cole, but that’s not the Chicago Bulls. They are a true team, not a fun-filled group of superstars. They work together and every time they play together, they get better.

      Are the Mavs better than the Heat right now because of how they “handled” them in the Finals last year?
      Not a chance, coming from a die hard Mavs fan.

      • findthetruth90 - Mar 26, 2012 at 7:11 AM

        Who ever said Norris cole was a superstar? Stop finding an ignorant way to critique the Heat…it’s sad just get a life douche

    • drunkenjunk - Mar 25, 2012 at 8:13 PM

      yes and the Heat are the best because they won the finals last year right? Anyone else can play the same game. By records the Bulls are the better team. They also beat your Heat w/o Rose.

      also @ Lakerluver
      That’d be sweet i’m not a fan of either team but that finals is way more interesting.

      • findthetruth90 - Mar 26, 2012 at 7:12 AM

        That second comment makes you sound stupid

    • eugenesaxe - Mar 25, 2012 at 10:07 PM

      1-Last year=last year.
      2-You say Chicago isn’t much better than last year. Miami got Battier. Hardly earth-shattering.
      3-Talk about ignorant blind fanyboyism…

  5. bknowledge - Mar 25, 2012 at 8:57 PM

    In the history of the NBA, there has never been a champion with 2 guys from backcourt (pg, sg, sf) that score 20 points or more per game. If either OKC or Miami win the championship, they will become the first…

    • raidmagic - Mar 25, 2012 at 9:33 PM

      ummmm since the Bulls won thier last title in 96 we can guess you are 16 or younger? Damn do a little research before dropping your “bknowledge” on all of us.

  6. isujames - Mar 25, 2012 at 9:04 PM

    ^ what about Jordan and Pippen dummy???????

  7. gmsingh - Mar 25, 2012 at 9:29 PM

    Uh, Matt, isn’t the win-loss record really the only criterion for determining who the best teams are? How much of a loser will you feel like five years from now when Miami still has no championships?

  8. pastortodd78 - Mar 25, 2012 at 9:46 PM

    Bulls won their last title in 98. They won in 90-91, 91-92, 92-93, the Rockets in 93-93, & 94-95, the Bulls again in 95-96, 96-97, 97-98. Strike shortened season of 99 was the Spurs.

  9. deiong - Mar 25, 2012 at 10:55 PM

    with any luck miami will get out in the first round, would teach them proper :)

  10. losangelasbasketball - Mar 25, 2012 at 10:57 PM

    lebron and miami’s cast look like a one and done team…. hope they can reach the chicago bulls in the playoffs…

  11. chicago240 - Mar 26, 2012 at 12:43 PM

    Fun Facts. # of games missed to date of the teams’ starters:

    Miami – 14 games
    OKC – 6 games
    Chicago – 61 games

    And with that Chicago is 2 games up in the loss column. Not sure how that plays out in the playoffs but if given the choice, I like watching a “team” play the game and the Bulls only pull this record off as a team.

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