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
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
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
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