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NBA Finals, Page 2

"I’m Kind of Freaking Out" – Keys to an OKC Victory in the NBA Finals

Along with The CDP doing aces on the Miami Heat keys to victory in the Finals, we’ve dispatched our main man Thunderstolt to look at the OKC side and determine what the keys to victory are. Keep in mind that this has been edited, as he’s barely slept, can’t eat and quite frankly, is barely a human being right now. This is him at his most serene, probably the result of some sort of placebo. As the title of the post says, earlier today his first message to me was “I’m kind of freaking out.” Peace be with you, brother. Let’s get to it!

He saw this coming.  From the moment he told Clay Bennett he would be his GM, Sam Presti saw this as his vision.  His vision has brought them to within four wins of raising a banner. 

Presti has done his job.  Now its time for Scott Brooks and his staff to finish theirs for this 2011-2012 season.  The good news is the Thunder doesn’t have to change much from the previous three series to be successful in the Finals.

It seems fitting the first championship foe ever for this Thunder squad is against the Heat – after the next two weeks either KD or LeBron will have a ring and a banner to raise this fall.  Soak that one in.

Other than that quick little hit, I going to stay away from the obvious KD vs LBJ narrative because I’m pretty sure 99% of the blogosphere is writing about that (My thoughts on that matchup: The two best players in the league going at it for their first title and we’re in for a hell of a series. That cover it? Okay, good). So let’s stick to basketball, shall we? Presenting the Thunder’s keys to victory.

Russell Westbrook vs The World

As I mentioned in my last post for MAMBINO,  Westbrook has evolved as a player not only throughout this lockout shortened regular season but over the last 15 playoff games as well.  He has kept his foot on the gas pedal when need be, but surprsingly has pulled back to get other guys involved as well.  His defense in the playoffs has been underrated, relentless and most importantly, he is finding ways to contribute to wins other than the stat sheet. 

This could be a big, BIG series for Russ.  Westbook has been a sponge in these playoffs not only from what his coaching staff is telling him but from opponents as well.  In my four years of watching the Thunder play, I don’t think I have ever seen Russ use a screener more than once in a set.  Against the Spurs, they ran him ragged through screen after screen as Tony Parker used the same big man to find a crease in the defense.  You know what happened?  Russ threw it back right at ’em and started using his big men to use a screen two or three times until he saw daylight to drive to ball and either find a slashing big man or shooter in the corner.

More than likely Chalmers will start on Westbrook to start the series but that could have disasterous ramifications if they stick with Mario too long.  Westbook will see Chalmers, Wade, LeBron, Battier and anyone else who Coach Spoelstra thinks can slow him down for stretches.  Russ must keep doing what he has been doing and playing with poise and composure.  He has been fantastic at picking his spots thus far and they need him to continue that for the Thunder to make the final step.  Plus, the idea of Westbrook having more shot attempts in the Finals and Thunder winning would make Skip Bayless’ head explode (so America wins, as well as OKC!). Depending on what the Heat defense gives him, that could be a reality. 

Like A Bosh 

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MAMBINO’s NBA Finals Preview: Keys to a Miami Victory

In many ways, the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder are mirror images of the same team. Guided by three athletic superstars and one of the youngest coaches in the league, both teams had to survive the old powers in their respective conferences to make it here. The Thunder played the Mavericks, the Spurs, and the Lakers, who collectively represent every single NBA finals representative from the West since 1999. The Heat took out Boston for the second straight year and prevented the C’s from getting to the Finals for the 3rd time in 5 years.  In terms of NBA narrative, however, these teams could not be more different.  The Heat will undoubtedly be the villains in this series and most casual fans will side with the Boy Scouts from OKC.

OKC is the homegrown model, the team created by smart lottery draft picks, cap flexibility, and opportune trades. With their culture and management structure, they are set up to be the Spurs of the next decade if they can find a way to lock up their young core. And with Harden still on his rookie deal, OKC has the added advantage of the kinds of role players that Miami wished it had. My heart says that OKC will win, but my brain is telling me that I’m merely hoping instead. Miami certainly has more experience, as both Wade and LeBron have 2 appearances in the Finals each under their belts. You might say that the Thunder are merely precocious and that the Heat are still the current generation of stars. Either way, this is the time for the Miami Heat to establish a dynasty if they’re ever going to.

Looking at the numbers, you can see that we’re looking at two teams that can both score and defend at a high level. Everyone expects this to be a competitive series. If Miami is going to take home the title, they’re going to need their A-Game. Here are my keys to the series for the Heatles:
Ready for some
Boy Scouts, Bron?
  • Stars Need to Shine: This is truly a generational battle of NBA superstars and the Heat have a lot less margin for error than against Boston. LeBron has been unreal in these playoffs, but Kevin Durant has been outstanding too. In the Finals, LeBron needs to be invincible. LeBron still has dimensions that KD is just starting to develop; however, it’s time for him to show that he’s the best player in the league, not just in the regular season. The Heat cannot afford the erratic performances Wade has been providing, particularly with Sefolosha playing so well right now. The 8th ranked Heat struggled mightily on offense at times against Boston and OKC has a lot of athletic defenders to throw at them. Their stars need to be nothing less than transcendent.
  • Tough, Team Defense: The Heat allowed Boston (the NBA’s 27thmost efficient offense this year) to score punches in droves. Now they face OKC’s 2nd ranked offense and you can’t afford it against a team that can score like that AND get easy points in transition off of your mistakes. Miami’s team thrives on defense and its time to rediscover that identity. In the Western Conference, teams tried to exploit OKC in the frontcourt and play their stars physically. The Heat don’t have the same advantage, but they have incredibly athletic defenders in Wade and LeBron that can disrupt the OKC stars. Spoelstra is a defensive maestro and it’s time for him to earn the title with his schemes, particularly at disrupting the OKC pick and rolls and making their stars into jump shooters. It can be done, but the Heat need a game plan when Harden, Westbrook, and Durant are all on the court.
  • Steal One on the Road: The NBA Finals has an interesting 2-3-2 format, so the Heat will g
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