2012 NBA Finals Preview – Miami Heat vs Oklahoma City Thunder
The two No. 2 seeds in their conference will meet in the NBA Finals starting Tuesday in Oklahoma City when the favored Thunder host the Heat.
These teams are very evenly-matched as Miami has 58 wins (42 ATS), outscoring opponents by 6.4 PPG, while Oklahoma City has won 59 games (45 ATS) with a 6.2 PPG margin. These teams met twice this season with each club winning on its home floor. The Thunder drilled the Heat 103-87 on March 25, but Miami returned the favor with a 98-93 victory on April 4. Overall this series has been tight, as the teams have split their 10 meetings (OKC is 6-4 ATS) over the past five seasons. Oklahoma City is 12-3 SU during these playoffs, including a stellar 10-2-1 ATS in the past 13 contests. Miami isn’t too far behind at 12-6 SU (11-7 ATS) in this postseason. The big difference between these clubs is team defense. Miami allows just 91.6 PPG (89.0 PPG at home) this season, while Oklahoma City gives up 96.7 PPG. Although both teams have their three star players, the most important player on the floor will likely be Heat PF Chris Bosh. Miami was 42-15 (74%) in the regular season with Bosh, and just 4-5 without him. And in the playoffs, the Heat are 6-1 (all double-digit wins) when their All-Star power forward logs 20+ minutes, and just 6-5 when he does not. When Miami’s Big Three of Bosh, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are all on the court at the same time, Miami is outscoring opponents by 16.9 PPG (per 48 minutes) in the postseason. With two of the Heat stars on the court, that number is still a robust +9.9 PPG. Although the Thunder’s Big Three of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden have won by 18.5 PPG (per 48 minutes) in the playoffs when all three are on the court simultaneously, when one of them sits, the opponents have outscored Oklahoma City.
Although Miami is 5-2 SU in its past seven trips to Oklahoma City, the Thunder have been perfect at Chesapeake Energy Arena during these playoffs. They are 8-0 SU (5-3 ATS) in these home games with 102.6 PPG on 48.4% FG (36.4% threes) and 84.3% FT. Only once have they allowed a visitor to reach 100 points on their home floor. Miami is a mediocre 4-4 (SU and ATS) on the road this postseason, but it crushed the Celtics 98-79 in its last road game in Boston. When the series shifts to Miami, the Heat are 8-2 SU (7-3 ATS) at AmericanAirlines Arena in the 2012 playoffs, scoring 99.4 PPG on 46.2% FG (33.2% threes). The Thunder are just 4-3 SU (3-4 ATS) on the road in these playoffs, but their offense has still been strong away from home with 102.0 PPG on 45.2% FG (38.4% threes) and 82.6% FT.
Both teams are loaded with stars as Miami’s LeBron James and Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant finished 1-2 in the regular season MVP voting. Both players have been outstanding in the 2012 playoffs with James averaging 30.8 PPG (51% FG), 9.6 RPG and 5.1 APG, while Durant has poured in 27.8 PPG (51% FG), 7.9 RPG and 4.2 APG. In the two regular-season meetings this year, James had 25.5 PPG (47.4% FG), 8.5 APG and 3.0 SPG, while Durant pumped in 29.0 PPG (54% FG) with 6.5 RPG and 5.5 APG.
While many expect both MVP candidates to shine, it’s uncertain what to expect from Thunder PG Russell Westbrook, who is shooting just 43.6% FG during the playoffs and made only 31.0% FG versus the Heat during the regular season. Heat SG Dwyane Wade is shooting just 39.7% FG in his past four games, but he’s still posting a well-rounded 22.9 PPG, 5.0 RPG and 4.1 APG during the postseason. He scored 20.5 PPG on 46.4% FG in the regular season versus Oklahoma City.
The No. 3 scoring options for each team, Heat PF Chris Bosh and Thunder SG James Harden are both going to have a big say in how their teams fare in this series. Bosh scored 19 points (8-of-10 FG) with eight boards in Saturday’s Game 7 win over Boston, but he posted a pedestrian 15.0 PPG and 5.5 RPG against the Thunder this season. Oklahoma City has a pair of big, 6-foot-10 bodies that will try to out-muscle Bosh in C Kendrick Perkins and PF Serge Ibaka. Harden has a solid 17.6 PPG, 5.2 RPG and 3.3 APG in the postseason, and also made 61.1% of his shots against Miami this season, averaging 15.5 PPG, 4.0 RPG and 5.5 APG. Another key for the Heat will be how well PG Mario Chalmers handles the point. He had 32 assists and just 12 turnovers in the East Finals versus Boston, while pitching in a solid 12.0 PPG on 46% FG.