NBA Finals questions: Heat-Thunder ready to go

The season started with 30 teams, got whittled down to 16 and

now there are two – the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder, set

to begin the NBA finals on Tuesday night.

LeBron James in his third finals. Kevin Durant in his first. One

superstar set to get his first ring.

It has the makings of a classic. So with Game 1 on tap, here’s

10 questions and answers about this title matchup:

WHO’S BETTER, JAMES OR DURANT? Flip a coin. Kevin Durant is a

three-time scoring champion. LeBron James is a three-time MVP. And

this series probably won’t decide if one individual player is

better than the other, either. They’ll be matched up against each

other at times in this series, and everyone wants to see the 1-on-1

fireworks. Sounds like the only people not wrapped up in the whole

KD vs. LBJ matchup are, well, KD and LBJ. ”It’s the Thunder vs.

the Heat,” Durant said.

CAN LEBRON SILENCE HIS CRITICS WITH A WIN? Not all of them.

Look, no matter what James does – wins a championship, wins a Nobel

Peace Prize, never wins another game in his life – he won’t silence

everybody. He will get plenty of credit if the Heat win this title,

and rightly so. It also could be a relive-the-nightmare scenario

for Cleveland. It was hard enough for Cavaliers fans to watch James

leave. Just imagine how hard it’ll be for them if James hoists the

championship trophy wearing another city’s uniform.

ARE THE THUNDER READY FOR THIS? Sure. Same could have been asked

about Miami in 2006, when yes, the Heat had veterans like Shaquille

O’Neal and Jason Williams and Gary Payton and Alonzo Mourning and

Antoine Walker. But the guy who made the Heat go in that

championship season was Dwyane Wade, who was 24 when he carried

Miami to the title. Kevin Durant is 23. Russell Westbrook is 23.

No, neither has been on this stage before. But they handled being

down 0-2 to San Antonio. That’s proof enough of what they’re

capable of doing at this time of year. ”We’re not here just to be

here. We’re here to win a championship,” Thunder coach Scott

Brooks said.

WHO HAS THE BETTER SIXTH MAN? Well, that’s an easy one, since

Oklahoma City’s James Harden is the premier sixth man in the NBA

right now. But it may not be as one-sided as many would think if

Miami continues using Chris Bosh off the bench. Bosh – who missed

nine playoff games with a strained lower abdominal muscle and has

been a reserve in each of his three appearances since – said last

week that he isn’t counting on starting again this season, and the

Heat have raved about what he’s been able to do with the second

unit. So Harden may have some competition after all.

WHAT’S UP WITH THE POSTGAME OUTFITS? The glasses-without-lenses

that LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have been wearing, they’re one

thing. But seriously, the shirts that Russell Westbrook has been

putting on before he goes to postgame news conferences look like

they were designed to go with Rodney Dangerfield’s pants in

”Caddyshack.” It’s like the postseason has been one long tribute

to Steve Urkel or something. The fascinating part of the outfit

craze is that Twitter is burning up after games with people trying

to figure out where to buy the stuff.

WHY NO TWITTER? LeBron James hasn’t tweeted since April 27.

Kevin Durant hasn’t tweeted since May 1. In a word, it’s about

focus. Playoffs are hard enough without distractions like 4,784,446

followers – James’ total as of Monday afternoon – asking you for a

retweet. One of them will tweet in a few days as an NBA champion.

That’s enough for them.

SHOULD THE BEARD BE FEARED? James Harden has unbelievable

amounts of talent. He’s best known for his mohawk-and-beard look.

And one of the gripping questions entering this finals matchup got

an answer Monday, when Harden was asked if he would be sitting down

with some clippers at the end of the season. ”The beard’s going to

stay. Win or lose,” Harden said.

WHO HAS THE BEST SIDELINE MOM? LeBron, Dwyane, Kevin, Russell,

say any of those first names and everyone who’ll watch these finals

knows exactly who you’re talking about. It might not be long before

the same can be said about Jolinda and Wanda. Really. Jolinda Wade

(Dwyane Wade’s mom) and Wanda Pratt (Kevin Durant’s mom) will be

getting plenty of airtime in this series. The Heat guard always

makes a point to hug his mother just before tipoff, and maybe the

most compelling image of the Western Conference finals was Durant

falling into his mother’s arms when the Thunder knew they were

going to the title round. (Side note: Those envelopes Heat players

were handed after the East finals ended? They were cards from

Jolinda Wade.)

WADE VS. WESTBROOK? Assuming that LeBron James and Kevin Durant

put up similar numbers in the series, maybe one key element in

deciding this title will be how Dwyane Wade and Russell Westbrook

perform. Wade raises his game in the NBA finals, and for whatever

reason, Westbrook has struggled against Miami – though that was

news to Wade. ”Russell Westbrook is what makes them very

special,” Wade said. Yes, but Westbrook has shot just 30 percent

in his last five games against the Heat. If Miami figures out a way

to keep him from getting rolling, and if Wade turns in another

finals-MVP-type showing, the Heat will have a huge edge.

WHO WILL WIN THE FINALS? Oklahoma City is 8-0 at home in these

playoffs, winning by an average of more than 10 points per game.

The Thunder got more rest going into the title series, and have a

huge head of steam after winning four straight against San Antonio.

But the Heat are driven by the pain of losing in the finals last

season. And James may be playing at his highest level yet. So in a

championship-or-bust season, the Heat … won’t bust. Miami in

six.

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