Tomorrow night the Miami Heat will visit the Chesapeake Energy Arena to take on the Oklahoma City Thunder in game 1 of the NBA Finals. While Oklahoma City could be a larger market, I don’t think the league can complain too much about this matchup. From a fan’s point of view, what more could you want? Rising stars, storylines, and exciting styles of play define this series. Buckle your seat belts, it is going to be a fun ride.
Now it should be a crime that I even have the nerve to make a prediction in this series after my disastrous prognostication of last year’s Finals but I want to see if I can redeem myself (or embarrass myself further). Neglecting to make some radical call or to go outside the box, I am very conservatively going to say that the Thunder will defeat the Heat in seven games.
I think each team will “hold serve” and win each game on their respective courts, with OKC ultimately winning the championship because of home court advantage. I just don’t see either team taking one from the other on their home court. The Thunder enjoy the best fans and best atmosphere in the NBA. The Heat enjoy the best home court edge. What do I mean by home court edge? The Heat, and especially Lebron, get every single call under the sun when they play in AmericanAirlines Arena. It kills me every time I watch a game.
Normally I will try to save face and predict against the team I want to win. You see, by doing this I prevent myself from becoming too disappointed with the outcome. If the team I am rooting for loses, at least I can take some solace in the fact that I “branched out” and made a decent prediction. If the team that I am cheering for wins, then who cares about my lame prediction? I am a happy camper! But I can’t split it up that way this time around. I think the Thunder will win the series.
What the Heat have going for them is experience. They played in the Finals last year. They know what the stage is all about and they know what the travel and the series format entails. They also have motivation after losing last year, especially one certain superstar who embarrassed himself when it mattered most. But hey, I am not here to rip on Lebron, I did that enough in a previous blog post. Even with these factors going in the favor of the Heat, I still like the Thunder’s chances. They have home court advantage and they have the better team. They have played against much better competition the whole playoffs and they are coming off of more rest than the Heat.
Just a few NBA Finals odds and ends before I wrap this up:
Finals TV Braodcast Team: The only reason why I would want to watch every single Finals game in a deafening loud bar is to shield my ears from the analysis of Jeff Van Gundy. Out of all the color analysts in sports, he is on my top five list of guys I despise the most. Coming off as arrogant and whiny, I have a very tough time listening to him. He has a definite agenda too. He always hated Phil Jackson and all the years he was forced to call the Lakers playoff games, that bias always came through. I would love to hear Van Gundy’s counterpart for the Conference Finals, Steve Kerr, hold down the color duties. Articulate and very intelligent, Kerr is a joy to listen to. He is also very down to earth and brings the experience of both a championship player and a GM…a much more impressive resume than an over-the-top coach who never accomplished much. Mike Breen as the play-by-play doesn’t bother me but I would still rather listen to Marv Albert. Doris Burke as the sideline reporter? Hmmmmm….she is okay, but why doesn’t ABC/ESPN throw in Erin Andrews or take Rachel Nichols off of her team assignment and have her perform the duties? Again, I might have to watch more of these games in bars than in my living room.
Why is no one talking about this?*: I have heard very little discussion about how there will always be an asterisk by the 2011-12 NBA Champion. With a 66 game season, it is really hard to say that the additional 16 games that were cut off had no positive or negative impact on the teams. But maybe that is a testament to how exciting this postseason has been. The play, the games, and the series have been superb. Maybe this has covered up that minor detail. Even if the shortened season does escape the minds of fans, it will forever be etched in history at the end of either Oklahoma City or Miami in the record books.
Lebron vs. Durant: Although I think the Lebron-Dirk matchup of last year’s Finals was a little more intriguing to me than Lebron-Durant, this year’s battle should be very entertaining. Besides, Lebron and Durant will probably end up guarding each other for the majority of the series as opposed to Lebron on Dirk last year. Vegas has Durant winning the Finals MVP with 1/1 odds but Lebron has the second best odds at 2/1. I expect Lebron to show up at this year’s Finals (well, until at least the end of each game) and I see it as a series where Durant will get the best of Lebron one night and then King James will get the best of Durant the next night.
I am ready for tomorrow night. Ratings are projected to be high and it seems like I personally know a lot more people who are drawn into the NBA Finals this year. Please e-mail me/text me/Facebook me your Finals predictions. Who will it be? Thunder or Heat? Don’t Blink.