Got to stick my with pick.
Before the season started, I picked the Miami Heat as one of the five favorites to win it all.
Before the NBA playoffs, I picked them to win it all.
Now with Game 1 of the NBA Finals about to start in a few hours, the Heat are right where they’re supposed to be, but face the team I picked they’d meet in the finals – the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Thunder are serious, folks.
They play fast, can score as will, defend the paint and their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden are not only shot makers, but shot takers.
None of them are afraid to launch when all is on the line.
It’s hard to beat a team like that.
The Heat have the team to do it, but are they up to the challenge?
This isn’t the New York Knicks, who had talent, but couldn’t put it together in time to really challenge them.
This isn’t the Indiana Pacers, who although physical and tough, lacked the experience to put a team way.
This isn’t the Boston Celtics, who are savvy vets that ran out of gas.
This is Oklahoma City. The Thunder have the NBA’s best fans, just beat the league’s best team in San Antonio four straight times after the Spurs had won 20 games in a row.
However, this is LeBron James’ time.
Game 1: Tonight, 9 p.m. (ABC)
How they got here: Miami def. (7) New York, 4-1 in first round, def. (3) Indiana 4-2 in conference semifinals, def. (4) Boston in the conference finals, 4-3. Oklahoma City def. (7) Dallas, 4-0 in first round, def. (3) Los Angeles Lakers, 4-1 in conference semifinals, def (1) San Antonio, 4-2 in conference finals.
How they REALLY got here: The Heat were down 3-2 and pushed to the brink when LeBron James exploded for 45 points in a Game 6 victory. That took the life out of the Celtics and although they played valiantly in Game 7, they just didn’t have enough to win at Miami. As for the Thunder, once they figured out how to defend the pick-and-roll the Spurs were using to perfection with Tony Parker, they beat them four straight games after falling down 0-2. The Spurs ran out of gas in a way, too, but Oklahoma City was the better team.
Biggest concern for the Thunder: James and Wade. If the two can combine to average at least 60 points and push that figure close to or at 70 points, the Heat will win it all. That likely won’t happen with Chris Bosh back from his abdominal injury, but James and Wade must play off each other. That means one moving without the ball to make the defense adjust. Serge Ibaka will contest everything at the rim so the James and Wade must not only draw him in and kick it to open shooters, but take it to the big fella and draw fouls.
Biggest concern for Heat: Thunder bench. As much of a handful Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are, Oklahoma City’s bench players are key. Who does Miami put on NBA Sixth Man of the Year James Harden when he’s out there with Durant and Westbrook? Durant is their closer, but Harden is the guy who will hit the tough shot when Durant is doubled and can create his own shot with the shot clock winding down. Nick Collison had a great series against Spurs and savvy vet Derek Fisher has some big shots left in him.
Series prediction: Heat in 6. Got to stick with my pick, but boy, Oklahoma City could easily win this series. However, the time has come for LeBron James to finish what he started when deciding to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat – win an NBA title. That time is now.