Who will win the NBA Finals?

BY DI STAFF | JUNE 12, 2012 6:30 AM

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Miami Heat

Since the creation of the Big Three on July 8, 2010, the Miami Heat have had one goal in mind:
Championship or bust.

Now in the second year of the Big Three era, the Miami Heat are ready to achieve, and capable of achieving that goal against three-time scoring champion Kevin Durant and his Oklahoma City Thunder.

Why? Because of the MVP-defining play of LeBron James. This is a different James than last year's version; he has responded this year when his team has faced adversity. Down a game to the Pacers? James and Dwyane Wade responded by scoring 70 combined points. Facing elimination against the Pacers? He scored 45 points, grabbed 15 rebounds, and dished out 5 assists to force Game Seven.

It's as if LeBron refuses to let his team fail. Now with the Thunder as his opponent, he'll need to continue to do so if he wants his first ring.

Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden are all superstars. The Thunder's youth, however, could be a disadvantage.

This will be the third Finals appearance for James, Wade, and Udonis Haslem. This will be the Thunder's first appearance in the Finals after its move from Seattle. The Heat were there last year.

It's tough to think that anyone will be able to stop LeBron this year. He knows what his critics are saying. He knows what the fans want, and he knows that it's up to him to leave it all on the court, and he's done that so far in the playoffs.

This is a different Heat team from the one that entered the Finals last year. This time around, they're playing better basketball, have a deeper, more experienced roster, and know they can achieve their goal.

No matter what happens, one thing is guaranteed: This is an NBA Finals matchup for the ages. I think it's safe to say that this is the year for LeBron and his Heat teammates, and why not?

After last year's loss to Dallas, James is not going to let the same thing happen again. At the rate he's going, his mission will end this season with he and his teammates taking the Larry O'Brien Trophy back to Miami.

— by Matt Cabel

Oklahoma City Thunder

Fielding a dynamic trio of its own with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden, Oklahoma City will attempt to put the final stamp on its journey to becoming one of the NBA's elite teams. Both teams will rely on their stars to win, but the pressure will undoubtedly be on the Heat.

OKC will try to take advantage of the Heat's dependency on LeBron James and Dwayne Wade with a strong post presence and a deep bench. James and Durant, who are averaging 30.8 and 27.8 points per game, respectively, will be the perennial matchup.

But the most complete team, not the best player, will win the Finals. The Thunder will field better players at three positions: point guard, center, and arguably power forward until the Heat's Chris Bosh completely returns from an injury.

OKC will have an easy time finding open shots if Westbrook can continue the growth he's shown. Center Kendrick Perkins should win his matchup with Miami's Joel Anthony, or whoever Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra decides to go with at center.

The other advantage the Thunder has is its bench. The OKC bench comprises veterans — Derek Fisher and Nick Collison for instance — and the NBA's sixth man of the year in Harden. He is scoring 17 points per contest off the bench.

And OKC has height the height advantage, too.

Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins, Collison, and Nazr Mohammed — all 6-10 — have the height to keep James and Wade from continually driving to the rim. The Thunder will win the series if its defense can contain the Miami duo more efficiently than Boston did.

OKC has to defend. Then the best offense in the playoffs — which has been scoring 102 points per game — will find a way to win the series. The Heat will need more than just their two outstanding wing players to stop OKC if they wish to raise the first of those "not six, not seven …" championships.

— by Carlos Sosa

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