After defeating Boston and San Antonio’s veteran squads, the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder are set to showcase the league’s next generation of talent. Both teams sport star-studded lineups, and as “The Thunderdome” prepares for Game 1 on Tuesday, THE SPORTS DISPENCER brings you a preview of this year’s matchup.
Position by Position Breakdown
PG Russell Westbrook vs Mario Chalmers
At the point guard position, Oklahoma City is provided one of its largest advantages. Unlike Chalmers, Westbrook possesses an elite scoring ability. When attacking the basket, Westbrook uses his speed to penetrate defenses, creating opportunities for himself and his teammates. Advantage: Thunder
SG Thabo Sefolosha vs Dwyane Wade
Sefolosha may be the team’s premier perimeter defender, but it will take all he has to contain Dwyane Wade. As the face of the Heat franchise, Wade has garnered eight All-Star nods and lead Miami to a title in 2006. He poses both the tangibles and intangibles necessary to wreak havoc this series. Advantage: Heat
SF Kevin Durant vs LeBron James
This series’ closest matchup takes place at small forward. Both Durant and James are two of the league’s brightest stars. Both possess the size, speed, and scoring ability necessary to take over games. With nearly identical regular season statistics, a slight edge goes to LeBron based on his ability to distribute the ball. Advantage: Heat
PF Serge Ibaka vs Chris Bosh
Both power forwards have provided intriguing storylines this postseason. In Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals, Ibaka was on fire, shooting 11-11 from the field. Bosh, however, has been sidelined throughout most of this postseason with an abdominal injury. His starter status continues to remain up in the air, but even if Bosh returns to the lineup, he is bound to struggle against Ibaka’s unquestioned defensive prowess. Advantage: Thunder
C Kendrick Perkins vs Udonis Haslem
Center provides another clear-cut advantage to Oklahoma City. Haslem is better suited to play at power forward, but beyond him, the Heat have little talent signed to the roster. Perkins is not only younger, he is a better, scorer, defender, and most importantly — player. Advantage: Thunder
Sixth Man James Harden vs Shane Battier
Shane Battier may provide Miami with quality defense off the bench, but he is no match for Oklahoma City star James Harden. The 22-year-old rising talent averaged 16.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 3.7 assists for the Thunder en route to NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award honors. Advantage: Thunder
Oklahoma City possesses a fanbase as passionate as any in the NBA. Chesapeake Energy Arena creates a college-like atmosphere for the Thunder. The crowd’s intensity has helped will their hometown favorites to an NBA-best 8-0 home record this postseason, and as their success continues, their energy is on the rise. When the Heat come to town, it will not be any different.
In this year’s contest, Oklahoma City matches up favorably across the board. Clear-cut advantages at point guard and center bode well for the Thunder. Their rotation of Harden, Durant, Sefolosha, and Ibaka have what it takes to run the floor with Miami’s Big Three, and Chesapeake Energy Arena ensures an electric atmosphere for Game 1 on Tuesday. Prediction: Oklahoma City wins in six behind Durant’s MVP performance.
What do you think? Anything we missed? Comment below and let the discussion begin.