Position-by-position matchups for NBA Finals
A position-by-position look at the matchups in the NBA finals between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat:
CENTER: Kendrick Perkins vs. Udonis Haslem. Perkins brings the NBA finals experience most of his young teammates lack, having been part of Boston teams in 2008 and `10. He had a rare high-scoring night in Oklahoma City's regular-season win over Miami, scoring 16 points on 8-of-11 shooting. His time on the court in this series could depend on the Heat's lineups, because with Haslem and Chris Bosh both often more perimeter oriented, the Thunder may need to go small. Edge: Thunder.
POWER FORWARD: Serge Ibaka vs. Shane Battier or Chris Bosh. Ibaka has turned into more than just one of the NBA's top defensive players, having a 26-point outing on 11-for-11 shooting in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals. He is shooting 55.6 percent in the postseason, best among players who advanced past the first round. The Heat have options for their rotation now that Bosh looks back to full strength after scoring 19 points and making three 3-pointers in the Heat's Game 7 victory over Boston to win the East. Battier, whose shot had been off most of the postseason, made four 3s in the game and hit three in both games against Oklahoma City during the season. Edge: Even.
SMALL FORWARD: Kevin Durant vs. LeBron James. Durant is the best scorer in the NBA, James probably the best all-around player. That includes his defense, and though Durant is a three-time scoring champion who has stretches where he's unstoppable, James has as good a chance as anybody in the league. He helped force Durant into a career-high nine turnovers in Miami's 98-93 home victory. And it's James who is actually the best scorer in this postseason, averaging 30.8 points. Edge: Heat.
SHOOTING GUARD: Thabo Sefolosha vs. Dwyane Wade. The Thunder began to change their series against the Spurs when they put Sefolosha, their best perimeter defender, on point guard Tony Parker. Now he goes back to defending a shooting guard, and one of the best in the league. Wade would surely welcome 1-on-1 coverage after the Celtics frequently double-teamed him while Bosh was out. Edge: Heat.
POINT GUARD: Russell Westbrook vs. Mario Chalmers. The Heat had all kinds of trouble with the Celtics' Rajon Rondo and they sure won't like playing against Westbrook, another speedy, do-everything point guard. He is prone to some poor shooting nights, such as 4 for 16 and 9 for 26 efforts in the regular season against Miami, but also has the potential to be the force that Rondo was in the last round. Edge: Thunder.
RESERVES: James Harden, Derek Fisher, Nick Collison, Daequan Cook and Nazr Mohammed vs. Bosh or Battier, Mike Miller, Joel Anthony, Ronny Turiaf and Norris Cole. If Bosh continues to play as a reserve, as he has in the three games since returning from a strained lower abdominal, Miami has some punch off the bench. Even so, the Thunder are better behind Sixth Man of the Year Harden, and Fisher is always good for a big shot or two this time of year. Edge: Thunder.
COACHES: Scott Brooks vs. Erik Spoelstra. Spoelstra was outcoached by Rick Carlisle in last year's finals but gets another chance now, seemingly with his full complement of players to allow him to mix and match. Brooks appears to have more options, and the 2010 Coach of the Year's move to change his defensive coverage and put Sefolosha on Parker in the last round slowed a Spurs team that had been in an offensive groove for weeks. Edge: Thunder.