Conspiracy theorists will hiss that the NBA got what it wanted.
That may be, but most fans will feel pretty satisfied, too.
Tuesday’s NBA Finals between Oklahoma City and Miami will feature a dream individual matchup, a star-studded cast, a bevy of intriguing role players, and a contrast in styles that produced two of the most compelling clashes of the 2012 regular season.
The two teams involved happen to employ some of the league’s most telegenic young stars, hence the aforementioned conspiracy theories. No NBA fan finds it too hard to envision a memo from David Stern to the league’s officials encouraging them to pave a smooth path through the playoffs for LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Kevin Durant.
Still, despite any sour grapes from the citizens of San Antonio, Boston, Los Angeles, Dallas, or even Indiana, the most exciting Finals of this decade are less than 72 hours away. Here are the reasons to glue yourself to your TV from tipoff to final buzzer.
- Ball Movement – The Thunder famously ranked last in the NBA in 2012 by recording assists on only 49.7% of their made field goals. Against the Heat on March 25, though, they conducted a quick-passing clinic, with 26 assists on 39 made baskets (66%). At the time, it seemed a fluke, but the Thunder proved in their four wins against the Spurs that they could move the ball effectively, recording assists on 56% of their buckets over that span. If they continue to space the floor as they did in Games 3-6 against San Antonio, they will have an antidote to the Heat’s ball-hawking defense.
- Scoring – Both the Heat and Thunder ranked in the top ten of the league in most offensive metrics: points per game, efficiency, field-goal percentage, and so on. There is little chance of a brickfest of the Boston-Philly or Clippers-Grizzlies variety. Both teams also feature superlative athletes capable of delivering crowd-pleasing highlights at lightning pace. Casual fans will find plenty to delight themselves, even as die-hards are devouring the nuances.
- The Battle of Goliaths – The following statement contains, amazingly, 0% hyperbole: LeBron James and Kevin Durant are about to engage in the greatest individual NBA finals clash since Russell and Chamberlain. Magic and Bird didn’t play the same position; Jordan never had a true foil; even Hakeem established himself on a different plane in his Finals matchups against Ewing and young Shaq. James and Durant finished 1-2 in this year’s Most Valuable Player voting, they are head and shoulders above every other wing player in the league, and serious NBA fans could have a two-hour argument about who is better. One man’s supporters are about to gain a wealth of ammunition.
About the Author
Written by Steven Jones
Portland native, Highland Park resident, middle school teacher/basketball coach.