Thunder, Heat evenly matched for NBA Finals

BY foxsports • June 10, 2012

Let's face it, you love the Thunder and you love to hate the Heat.

Get in line. You're not alone.

The Thunder are in the Finals for the first time, and they seem to have a sizable lead in the poll of public opinion. Meanwhile, Miami and its Big Three have run public relations like Ringling Bros., and the team's empty promises make us madder than mustard on a tie.

Maybe it's because the teams are so different. The Thunder were built through the draft. The Heat seemingly were built by Lowe's.

The Finals start Tuesday night in Oklahoma City, and in the next few days, we'll see breakdowns of every angle, possibility and probability. From the Midwest to South Beach. James Jones to James Harden.

Who has the better bench? What role players will play well? Who has the better hipster postgame, press conference glasses? Which city will pass out the better free T-shirts? All will be discussed.

Who has the advantage in what seems to be a classic Good vs. Evil matchup?

Likability
While the city of Seattle seems to hold a grudge against the Sonics for leaving town, the rest of us hold the Heat in contempt because LeBron James left his team.

What's worse, really? James did the same thing the rest of us would likely do, if only we had the chance. He left because of a better opportunity, better working environment and a better lifestyle. Cleveland has the lake. Miami has the beach. Easy call. Plus, now when he retires from playing, he won't have to move again.

The Thunder arrived in Oklahoma City, via moving van. James just showed up with his carry-on baggage. Sorry, LeBron, the fans have spoken. They think you're more fake than a Match.com profile. Oklahoma City loves the Thunder and pretty much everyone outside the Pacific Northwest feels the same. You're just the guy who bolted on Cleveland. Work in insurance, you're fine. Change laundry in the NBA, you're just a traitor.

Besides, Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant hugged his mom and family on the court after the clinching win against the Spurs. You just can't buy that kind of P.R.

Advantage: Thunder

Weather
Get ready for an epidemic of puns, comparisons and jokes as the weather takes over for this year's Finals.

But it was bound to happen at some point as the evolution of naming teams has gone from people's groups (offensive) to animals (used up), on to landscapes (too limiting), to weather.

Thanks to climate change, and in part to global warming, there's a whole new category of team names to choose from.

Oklahoma City is more Heat than Miami. Miami is more humidity and storms than Oklahoma City.

Advantage: Push

Home court
It took a Game 7 vs. the NBA's most famous franchise to get the fans to arrive early and stay late, but the Miami fans were there in force for the clinching win over the Celtics. Then, they seemed to boo ESPN's Doris Burke when she presented the team with the Eastern Conference trophy. Hard to imagine Burke brings out that kind of emotion in anyone.

Then there's Oklahoma City, where everyone wears made-for-TV T-shirts, claps when the scoreboard says so and unites behind its team in the form of a political rally. Extreme collegiate feel where the other team isn't the opponent, it's the enemy. It's Oklahoma-Texas with expensive suite seating, only this time the field isn't divided into two colors.

But give the fans in OKC credit. They were there when P.J. Carlesimo had his hands all over this team, leading them to a 1-12 start in 2008. The fans stuck it out and stayed loud. Loud when the Thunder lost in six games to the Lakers two seasons ago in the first round of the playoffs. Louder when the Thunder lost in five games last year to the Mavericks in the Western Conference Finals. And loudest when the Thunder beat the Spurs this year.

And louder still this season, as the Thunder have established themselves as the best team in the league.

Advantage: Thunder

Pressure
The way the Thunder have gone through the playoffs is amazing. Not only have they beaten the Lakers, they beat the other two Western Conference teams (Dallas and San Antonio) that have made the finals in the past 14 years.

A historic accomplishment. The Thunder entered the playoffs as the No. 2 seed, but they didn't have an easy trek. Playing the defending champs in the first round and the Lakers right after that makes for an exhausting stretch. Then, having to take on a San Antonio team that came into the series winners of 18 in a row — before two victories in a row against the Thunder — is nearly too much to handle.

Now, the Thunder have to face the Heat — the top seed in the East. Couldn't have been a more difficult scenario, but really, there was little-to-no pressure on OKC. If the Thunder had lost anywhere along the way, they certainly wouldn't have been scrutinized or criticized to any significant extent.

And then there's the Heat.

No team is picked apart, prodded and examined more than Miami. Who takes the shot when? Who passes to whom? Who coaches whom? All are elements the Thunder rarely have to worry about. Meanwhile, Miami plays every game knowing a good majority of the people want them to lose. 

Miami was a massive favorite to win the East, yet despite that they were nearly counted out twice this postseason as they fell behind both Indiana and Boston in the playoffs. Throw out the series against the Knicks. No one expected New York to cause any problems.

There's something to be said for the difficult road, but there's something to admire about being able to win when everyone wants the opposite. That a pressure situation the Thunder haven't experienced.

Advantage: Heat

All that's left is what happens on the court.


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