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Tom Johnson
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Better Matchup for the Heat

05/29/2014 2:11am
last edited:05/29/2014 2:11am
Replayed from My sport page
Greg Davis

I am going to go out on a limb and say the Heat will win the series against the Pacers to advance to their fourth straight NBA Finals in attempt to capture their 3rd straight NBA championship. The Heat have a monstrous 3-1 series lead heading into tonight's game 5 in Indiana where the Pacers will try to live another day. Out West, the Thunder have come roaring back to life after falling into an 0-2 hole to tie the series at 2-2. It's hard to argue that the Thunder's resurgence has a lot in part to do with the return of Serge Ibaka, who was allegedly out for the rest of the postseason, in game 3. With the series coming down to a best of 3, who would the Heat rather see in the NBA Finals?

For me, the answer is simple: they would rather see the Thunder. We know what kind of basketball both these teams play.

The Spurs are extremely team oriented. Head coach Greg Popovich has extreme confidence in all 12 men on his bench and will throw any of them on the court and expect them to play their best because they are coached by the best. Beyond the big 3 of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobli (you could argue for a big 4 even with Kawaii Leonard continuing to mature into a very solid 2 way player), it would not be surprising to see Tiago Splitter have a big game, or Patty Mills, or Danny Green (who drilled 7 3 pointers only a couple games ago), or Marco Belinelli, etc. The Spurs are loaded and coached extremely well. They pass the ball beautifully, limit turnovers, and play solid defense. They can truly play beautiful basketball and that is scary to think about. Statistics show that they have even improved over last team's team and the addition of Belinelli has gone under the radar. The Spurs shot the lights out in last year's Finals against the Heat, and now they added another 42% 3 point shooter to their arsenal, only losing Gary Neal who is a solid 3 point shooter himself. The Heat were one 1 made free throw away from losing the NBA Finals last year. An improved Spurs team and an arguably slightly lesser Heat team this year would make the Heat's 3peat quest even more challenging.

The Thunder are coached by Scott Brooks who has been in Oklahoma City for 5 years now. Really, what has he done to change that team or make them better? He never changes lineups (until recently when he finally benched Thabo Sefalosha for Reggie Jackson, yet is still plodding out Kendrick Perkins game after game) and rarely draws up a decent play out of a timeout. He relies on his 2 stars, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, to go and make plays, running iso after iso and running them into the ground with heavy minutes. Just last night, he kept Westbrook (straight off 2 knee surgeries) and Serge Ibaka (straight off what was thought to be a season ending injury less than a week ago) in the game with minutes to go while holding a double digit lead. He has 0 trust in his bench. None. He plays Reggie Jackson, typically a bench player, Nick Collison, Steven Adams, and sometimes Jeremy Lamb and Derek Fisher but never really does anything to get them going unless Durant or Westbrook make a play for them themselves. None of those players mentioned, aside from Jackson, are really capable of helping offensively either. If Miami has the pleasure of facing Oklahoma City in the Finals, they can heavily guard Durant with a flurry of double teams and great defenders like LeBron or Shane Battier to try and contain him. If Durant struggles and Westbrook is hot, one player won't be enough to outscore LeBron, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Ray Allen, and typically one role player who steps up whether it be Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole, Chris Birdman Anderson, or someone else. If both Durant and Westbrook struggle, well, the Thunder may as well be this year's Philadelphia 76ers. Scott Brooks has had 5 years to establish some sort of offense based around his stars, but elects to stay with his mostly isolation offense. Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra implements game plans based around his talent. It took about 9 months or so for the offense to take flight when the Big 3 first got together, but the system eventually took flight and helped the Heat get into the Finals in the Big 3's first year together. Brooks walked into a gold mine of elite talent and has yet to cash in on it. If he reaches the Finals again this year, the Heat will once again defeat the Thunder to earn that 3peat and Durant will go home to a trophy case with only an MVP award.

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