Sunday, June 10, 2012

2012 NBA Finals Predictions

It's here! The moment that all basketball fans have been waiting for all season long. The NBA Finals, the climax of the NBA season. And as this will be my last post about the 2011 - 2012 NBA season before it's time to look forward to the next season (and that will come quickly with the 2012 NBA draft), allow me to reflect a little before I get down to my actual predictions about what will specifically happen in the NBA finals.

It's been quite the journey this season. It's a season that will definitely be remembered in ways that are both good and bad. Bad because it was almost a lost season. Good because in the nick of time things worked out. Yes, that is the lockout we are talking about. And it was especially scary going into it at the beginning of last summer because there was the potential of no NFL or NBA. And yes, I know. I am a spoiled sports fan, but that would've been tragic. So we made it. A shortened 66 game season that was quite intense as there were often weeks where teams had 4 or 5 games in a week. Add to that a shortened offseason beforehand that makes it tricky going in to things with little to no preparation for everyone. Just like in the good old days where a group of friends get together and play a game of basketball. You don't practice. You don't prepare. You just jump in and start playing. After all is said and done some realize that they need to practice a lot more than they do and others realize that playing basketball is like riding a bike to them. So that is what it was. 30 teams just jumped in there and started playing basketball. And now after 66 regular season games and three rounds in the playoffs in the books, we are left with just two teams. The Oklahoma City Thunder and the Miami Heat.

First off, let's look at the Thunder. After this past series, Greg Popavic said it best when he said their story is like a Hollywood script. The story really started back when the Seattle Sonics franchise collapsed. Bad coaching, bad ownership, and no support from the city of Seattle caused the crash that sent the team off to Oklahoma City to start over. No expected much from the Thunder once they got to OKC but with the combined effort of great coaching, ownership, and striking gold in the draft with some great young talent quickly sent this team soaring to the top of the league at a pace that surprised everyone. After last year's trip to the western conference finals, high expectations were given to this team and they lived up to it by grabbing the number two spot in the west. Sometimes the number two seed gets quite lucky with matchups, but the road for the Thunder at that spot was a tough and impressive one. First off they had to get through the defending champion Mavericks. Next up was Kobe Bryant and the relentless Los Angeles Lakers. Finally, the last obstacle in their way of making their first finals appearance was the Spurs, a team that was enjoying one of the best winning streaks in NBA history. A Hollywood script? For sure. I don't think a better one could be written. The Spurs, Lakers, and Mavericks have been the only three teams to come out of the west since the '98 Jazz. Add to that going 12-3 through all that is quite impressive. And now the grand finale is to go up against King James, D-Wade, and Bosh in a matchup against the Miami Heat.

So now lets talk about them Heat. The team that 75% of America bitterly despise. And why? Because three good friends were all free agents at the same exact time and decided to go play for the same team? Yeah, pretty much. Sure we could start a huge debate and I'm sure millions of Americans could come to me with their argument as to why this move unclassy, ridiculous, and horrible for the NBA. But I am sorry, I find it all a bit over the top. No, I take that back. I find the level of hatred towards the Miami Heat to be way over the top. No, I am not a bandwagoner. I am a devout fan of the Utah Jazz and always will be. I am just good at pointing out the ridiculousness and stupidity of Americans sometimes and will cheer for the Heat to win in spite because I feel bad for them. Of course I want the Jazz to pummel them whenever they are faced against them, but that matchup isn't happening right now is it? This road of theirs has specifically been an interesting one. Some were ready to write them off in the first round when they were up against a hot and storied Knicks team, forgetting of course that Carmelo Anthony has never learned to play in the playoffs. Then in round two, everyone was willing to write them off when they went down 2-1 against the Pacers. Finally, the Celtics had them. Most thought they were done when the C's went up 3-2. Well, they overcame all of that to make it to the NBA finals for a second straight year.

So now the matchup. Heat vs Thunder. After that last paragraph you would all expect me to be cheering for the Heat in this one. Well, that's not quite accurate. I think Kevin Durant is one of the most classy players in the NBA and so I would love to see the Thunder win. And yes, like stated before, the Heat winning would make me happy as well so its really a win-win situation for me. And that makes it easy to analyze because I am not rooting for a specific team and so its completely unbiased. And at the same time it is hard because it is a really tough matchup to call. Either team winning wouldn't surprise me. Right now after those last two games against the Celtics, LeBron James and the Heat are really on fire and will be tough for the Thunder to knock off. Yet the Thunder have an impressive resume this post season, having just won four straight against the Spurs after the Spurs had won nearly 30 games in a row (if you don't count the two games they lost because they rested their big three) and gone up 2-0 against the Thunder. If the Thunder can do that, one would think that the Heat could be a challenge they could overcome. So it's quite even. In predicting an official outcome, I look at the 2-3-2 setup that always favors the team without home court advantage. The Heat losing one more game in the regular season could possibly be the best strike of luck that the Heat have had. The first two games will be in OKC and all the Heat have to do to gain a huge advantage is win one of those games and they will get 3 straight games in Miami. I am going to take that into account and thus say that the Miami Heat pull this off and win this series 4-2. But we'll see what happens. I will enjoy watching this series. It should be great!

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