How nice is this? Ticket punched to the NBA Finals with the ability to kick back and wait to see who the challenger is.
In all reality, it doesn’t matter in a real obvious way. The Thunder hold homecourt advantage over both the Celtics and Heat, and will likely be favored over either. Regardless, let’s break it down as if our wishes actually has any kind of influence.
Miami: 1-1 (+5.5 differential)
The Thunder split with the Heat this regular season, blowing them out at home and then losing a tight one in Miami. Kevin Durant was brilliant in the first game, completely dominating LeBron, but in the second while KD had a solid game, he also turned it over nine times.
Boston: 2-0 (+12.0 differential
The Thunder manhandled the Celtics in OKC and beat them in a close game in Boston behind a couple Russell Westbrook daggers and a hot shooting night from Thabo Sefolosha.
I think these factors might be most important of all. Because I’m an idiot and care way too much of this stuff.
- Old vs. Young: The clear hook of a Boston-OKC matchup with the Celtics being super old and the Thunder being super young. Kevin Garnett will likely drive you crazy talking about his “craft” while trying to explain how he gets motivated hearing how old he is.
- History vs. Upstart: The Celtics have 17 NBA championships. They’re one of the pillars of the league. The Thunder have zero, at least in terms of the Oklahoma City era.
- KD vs. LeBron: This storyline freaks me out a little because if by chance the Thunder were to play the Heat and lose, that would thereby mean KD lost to LeBron, which would be the title that finally validates LeBron, and that would not be fun. Obviously it would be a matchup of the two best players in the league and the MVP and the runner-up, so the showdown would be extremely intriguing, but also extremely stressful.
- Good vs. Evil: A Thunder-Heat Finals would put the organic, pure roster construction against the terrible, evil, dirty free agent collaboration. I think this will definitely be the worst hook of all, because who cares how you build a contender?
- Perk vs. the Celtics: Two best buds having to play each other for a championship in Perk and Rondo. Then you have Perk playing his mentor, KG.
- Who does Jeff Green root for?: Seriously, who would Uncle Jeff root for?
- The Five: If it were Boston OKC were to play and defeat, the Thunder will have run through the last five NBA champions. That’s pretty cool.
- Royce’s Pick: Before the season I predicted the Thunder would lose to the Heat in The Finals. And if I’m to remain consistent I’d need to pick that, which would totally suck. Especially because I think the Thunder are better than anything Eastern opponent. So the Celtics winning alleviates all of that.
Doc Rivers: In a lot of ways, the original Scott Brooks. He was an extremely criticized figure, someone blasted for poor in-game management and Xs and Os. But Rivers has developed into one of the better managers, to go along with being probably the game’s top motivator. He was validated with a title and stamped himself as one of the best coaches in the league. Brooks could do the same.
Erik Spoelstra: Here’s a good reason to root against the Heat: You’ll get really, really annoyed with Erik Spoelstra’s strange motivational jargon where he talks about brotherhood and warriors and battles and whatever other stupid connection he can come up with. It’s really awkward stuff. He’s just trying to hide the fact he’s well in over his head with the roster and is attempting to make it seem like he knows what he’s doing. Spo is a really good coach. Just probably not for the Heat.
South Beach can be a distraction. Plus, I’ve already been to Miami and I’ve never been to Boston. Easy choice.
So much of this all depends on Chris Bosh’s health because with him, the Heat are an extremely good team. Without him, they’re solid but have to hope LeBron and Dwyane Wade play near perfect games. They barely had enough to beat the Pacers and let me tell you, the Thunder aren’t the Pacers.
Up and down the line with the Heat, the Thunder match them well, and have edges all over. OKC’s much, much deeper, has a far better interior unit, protects the paint and can space the floor. What the Heat have in Dwyane Wade and LeBron, OKC matches in talent with Russell Westbrook and KD.
As for the Celtics, Rajon Rondo is the wildcard because he’s the NBA’s greatest enigma. He could dominate a game, or he could be taken out of it. Westbrook has defended Rondo well in the past, but OKC also has the option of Thabo there, which could be a quality move.
The Celtics live by their defense and while they can frustrate your halfcourt sets, the Thunder should be able to run all day. Rebounding shouldn’t be much of an issue as the Celtics aren’t big and the Thunder should be able to dictate matchups. Boston has never defended KD well at all, Westbrook has often performed well and the Thunder’s bench is deeper.
It comes down to a talent issue. The Heat have more dangerous weapons, as well as the potential trump card in Bosh. Miami has two guys capable of playing a brilliant game and taking completely over. The Celtics do as well in Paul Pierce and Rondo, but not in the same regard as LeBron and Wade.
Playing in Miami versus playing in Boston? No contest.
To me, it’s really a no-brainer. You want to play Boston. The Thunder matchup better, have had more success and overall, the Heat are potentially more dangerous. Essentially what we have here is me trying to break something down that we all really already knew and could’ve been completed with simply saying, “Root for Boston. Duh.”