The Miami Heat came on in a fourish at the end to finish off the Boston Celtics in the NBA Eastern Conference finals.
The stage and storylines are set for what should be a highly competitive and physical NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder. This writer believes the outcome may surprise some people.
I have to admit, this should be an exciting series. First you have the giant storyline of The King, LeBron, against the league's newest young superstar, Kevin Durant - out of the Big 12, no less - the Thor that makes Oklahoma City roll. Then you've got the youth, speed and athleticism of the Thunder vs. the talent, experience and ravenous hunger for a title of Miami's Big Three (James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh). And, of course, you've got the razzle-dazzle "Showtime" style of the Western Conference vs. the blue-collar, physical game that for some time now has been the hallmark of the NBA's Eastern Conference.
The team names actually say it all. What could be better than the guys from South Beach bringing the Heat and Oklahoma City delivering the Thunder. A matchup such as that has to be explosive.
In the interest of full disclosure, I confess that Miami was not my preference to reach the NBA Finals out of the East. I was hoping my Boston Celtics would defy age and injury and give it one last go with their own Big Three, but that opportunity went by the wayside in Boston's TD Garden last Thursday along with LeBron James' man-on-a-mission, dominating 45-point performance. The famed leprechauns apparently missed their wake-up call that evening.
While my heart will always be with the Celtics (count their rings), my head recognizes, albeit with some reluctance, that Miami was the better team, when you get right down to it, and deserves to be in the Finals, as do the Thunder.
So here we go. Now that the two finalists have been decided, the prognostication and punditry can commence on which team will be left standing with the Larry O'Brien Trophy in hand, and how many games will it take?
This is the greatest thing in sports to happen to Oklahoma City since the OU Sooners last won the national championship in football in 2000, and the Thunder weren't even part of the Oklahoma City scene then. They were in Seattle as the SuperSonics. If the Thunder win the NBA Championship, it might go down in history as the city's single greatest sports achievement, certainly of a professionals sports nature.
It may surprise you that as passionate a sports fan and a follower I am of the University of Oklahoma (that may come as even bigger surprise for those of you who think that because I graduated from Kansas I am a loyal supporter of the Jayhawks), which is almost a neighboring suburb of OKC, I don't think the Thunder are going to come out on top in this year's Finals, the first for the team since it relocated to Oklahoma City four years ago.
It's not because I don't want the Thunder to win, because I do (and that is the team I am rooting for). I just don't think they will get it done against a much more veteran, playoff-hardened team like the Heat. If Durant and the "gang that can really shoot straight" are somehow capable of coming out of this victorious, it will be because they play together as a team much better than the over-hyped, star-studded, single-minded Heat.
If this were a one-game-take-all affair or even a best-of-three, in all honesty, anything could happen. But the NBA Finals is a best-of-seven championship series, and in that format, the best team - and, in this case, the team with the best players - usually wins.
I'm sorry Thunder fans, but this year the Heat, it pains me to say, may not be the best team, but they are definitely the team with the best players. Before you yell, "Hold on, pardner!" consider this: "If you were picking two-man teams, would you pick Durant and Russell Westbrook or Durant and James Harden over James and Wade. I certainly wouldn't. And then you add in a talented big man like Chris Bosh, and the pendulum swings a little further to Miami's side.
So here's what I think: My head says, Miami in six games. I don't believe Oklahoma City will sweep the first two games at home. The Heat will pull out a narrow win in game two and head to South Beach with the home advantage for games three, four and five. Miami will prevail in two of the three at AmericanAirlines Arena and close out the series with a shocking game-six victory at Oklahoma City, giving LeBron James his first NBA Championship.
That's what I think, but if you want to know the truth, I'm honestly hoping my heart wins out over my head. I just wish that were true more than it is.
Follow the NBA Finals as well as what's going on with the teams at SB Nation Kansas City.