NBA Finals Preview

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

X-Factor

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.

Prediction

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.

* Photos Courtesy of Tumblr, Business Insider, Yahoo Sports

Advertisements

Who is to Blame for the Spurs’ Collapse?

After blowing an 18-point lead, San Antonio suffered a heart-breaking Game 6 loss to Oklahoma City. The Thunder outgunned the Spurs late, but one future hall of famer pointed blame in a different direction.

“I thought our effort was there, our execution was there, they just made shots for a stretch there and really got back into it,” Tim Duncan told reporters. “Down the stretch, for a period there, it seemed like they got every whistle possible. That really changed the tides.”

The loss proves a disappointing one to Duncan in what may be his final season. While questioning officiating, he did, however, give credit to the resilient Thunder.

“We were playing tough defense, we were trying to make stops and push it back, and the whistle kept blowing. They kept going to the line and getting free points there. That’s them being aggressive, that’s them continuing to attack, and credit to them.”

Oklahoma City did benefit from 16 second half free throws, but the question remains: Who is to blame for the Spurs’ Game 6 collapse?

The game was a game of halves. After an explosive 63-point first-half performance, the Spurs cooled off in the second to pave way to the charging Thunder, who outscored San Antonio by 23 in the half.

The final result was less to blame on officiating and more to blame on the Spurs’ biggest enemy — age. As the game wore on, San Antonio was exploited by the youthfulness of Oklahoma City’s Big Three. Durant, Harden, and Westbrook combined for 75 points, 25 rebounds, and 15 assists to turn the table on San Antonio and bring their youthful potency to the NBA Finals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do you think? Anything we missed? Comment below and let the discussion begin.

* Photos Courtesy of Bleacher Report, ESPN, USA Today

What If Wednesday: David Stern’s Veto

In a three-team blockbuster NBA trade, longtime Hornets point guard Chris Paul was set to leave New Orleans to don purple and gold. Hornets GM Dell Demps successfully dealt a disgruntled superstar to the Lakers in return for quality talent from both Los Angeles and Houston. All three parties were benefited, that was, until commissioner David Stern vetoed the deal for “basketball reasons” while acting as owner of the league-operated Hornets. Instead, New Orleans was relegated to trading Chris Paul to the Clippers. Stern’s actions drew heavy criticism, but what if he had chosen differently? THE SPORTS DISPENCER analyzes what could have been in this week’s edition of What If.

Lob City Loses Out

After David Stern nixed New Orleans’ original deal, Chris Paul still found his way to Los Angeles but not in the manner expected. Four days after the Lakers and Hornets agreed to terms, New Orleans sent Chris Paul to LA’s “other” team. The Clippers experienced an instant upgrade at the point guard position. Paul provided a spark plug on offense and his instant connection with power forward Blake Griffin kept the Staples Center electric while helping the Clippers win their first playoff series since 2005. Stern’s decision not only resurrected Los Angeles’ weaker franchise, it finally gave fans a reason to cheer.

Improved Lakers

What benefited one Staples Center resident, hurt the other. After agreeing to terms with New Orleans, the Lakers had filled their team’s biggest hole. They dealt away size for youth and speed at the point guard position, but after David Stern’s news broke, the Lakers had to turn to 37-year-old Derek Fisher to start. Fisher underwhelmed and Los Angeles was left searching for a way to fill the void. At the trade deadline, GM Mitch Kupchak received Ramon Sessions from Cleveland in an attempt to help increase production. Sessions fit well in coach Mike Brown’s system, but his defensive inadequacies were exploited early and often. Paul would have provided the Lakers superior offensive skill, but most importantly, his NBA All-Defensive talent would have matched up well against Russell Westbrook and the West’s other top-tier point guards, allowing the Lakers to make a deeper postseason run.

Odom’s Opportunity

After the Paul deal fell through, the Lakers’ sixth-man Lamar Odom was left in limbo. Then on December 11, Los Angeles brashly dealt Odom to the defending champion Dallas Mavericks. Uncertainty and a shortened offseason hurt Lamar. He struggled to mesh with the Mavericks and never truly found a place in their system. After putting up career-low numbers, Odom parted ways with the Mavs on April 9. Had the original Paul deal not fell through, Odom would have found himself at the center of New Orleans’ young core of talent. His veteran leadership would have meshed well with the Hornets raw talent and ultimately benefited both New Orleans and himself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Photos Courtesy of Hoop Smack, Zimbio, Real Clear Sports

What do you think? Anything we missed? Any other What If Wednesday suggestions? Comment below and let the discussion begin.

Saturday Sports Preview

UEFA Champions League Final (2:45 ET FOX)

Two European soccer giants collide in Munich today to compete for soccer’s highest club honors. The matchup pits Chelsea against the hometown favorites, Bayern Munich. Typically held at a neutral location, today Bayern gets the rare opportunity to play for the cup in front of Allianz Arena’s home fans. If Chelsea lets the crowd stay in the game, it could be a long day for the boys in blue. Prediction: Schweinsteiger dominates the midfield in a 2-1 Bayern Munich win.

Spurs-Clippers Game 3 (3:30 ET ABC)

The Spurs have played well — remarkably well. After cruising to victory in Game 1 and 2, San Antonio seems primed to continue their sixteen-game winning streak. The Clippers, however, have been outplayed on both sides of the ball and have yet to show any signs of change. Prediction: The Spurs do what they do best and roll to an easy third victory.

Thunder-Lakers Game 4 (10:30 ET TNT)

In yesterday’s article, we discussed the Thunder’s dominance and the Lakers’ inability to shutdown Oklahoma City’s dynamic offense. Last night, that changed. The Lakers held the Thunder to a postseason-low of 39.8 percent while shooting 41-42 from the free-throw line in a 99-96 series-changing victory. If the Lakers’ defense can play at last night’s elite level, it could spell trouble for the Thunder. Prediction: Kobe leads the way as the Lakers level the series at two games each.

What do you think? What are your Saturday sports plans? Comment below and let the discussion begin.

* Photos Courtesy of Bleacher Report, LA Times

Updated NBA Playoff Round 2 Predictions

San Antonio Spurs vs Los Angeles Clippers (SA leads 2-0)

Coming off a physical seven-game first-round series against the Grizzlies, the Clippers ran up against the West’s best. In its first two games, San Antonio has cruised to victory. Combined, San Antonio has outscored the Clippers 213-180 while shooting an average of 51 percent from the field. The Clippers played well enough to scrape by Memphis but has yet to prove it can handle the surging Spurs. The series shifts to Los Angeles, but the result will remain the same. Prediction: Spurs win in four.

Boston Celtics vs the Philadelphia 76ers (BOS leads 2-1)

Behind a strong Game 2 performance, the Sixers stole home-field advantage and seemed primed to take control of series, but the Celtics refused to budge. Boston rolled to victory in Game 3 behind Kevin Garnett’s 27 points and 13 boards. Rondo contributed 23 points and 14 assists. The Celtics offense dominated in a 107-91 win. If the Sixers want to stay alive, it will need to step it up on the defensive side of the ball. Boston cannot continue to shoot 50 percent from the field if Philly wishes to contend. Expect the Sixers to adjust but Rondo’s presence too large to overcome. Prediction: Celtics win in six.

Oklahoma City Thunder vs Los Angeles Lakers (OKC leads 2-0)

After clobbering the Lakers by 29 in Game 1, the Thunder found itself trailing by seven at home with two minutes remaining in Game 2. The Lakers finally seemed to be turning things around, but looks can be deceiving. The Thunder began knocking down contested shots as the Lakers missed open jumpers. Then with 22 seconds remaining, Durant buried the game-winner to give OKC the lead. In the final seconds, LA squandered its final opportunity when Steve Blake missed a wide-open three in the corner. Returning to the Staples Center will boost the Lakers’ production but not enough to match the Thunder’s dynamic Durant-Westbrook tandem. Prediction: Thunder win in five.

Miami Heat vs Indiana Pacers (IND leads 2-1)

The Big Three proved ineffective in Game 3 as the Pacers throttled the Heat by 24. Chris Bosh remains out indefinitely with an abdominal injury, and Dwyane Wade had his career worst playoff game performance. Wade was 2-13 for 5 points. LeBron notched 22 but was overshadowed by Roy Hibbert’s dominant performance. The Pacers star scored 19 points and reeled in 18 rebounds while providing key play on defense. His five blocks and strong interior presence contributed to 37.2 percent shooting for the Heat. The Pacers may continue to shut down Wade, and Bosh is unexpected to return, but as LeBron proved in Cleveland, he can win on his own. Prediction: Heat win in seven.

What do you think? Anything we missed? Comment below and let the discussion begin.

* Photos Courtesy of Seattle PI, LA Times