So this is really a hard pick.
Admittedly, I felt Miami went through more inferior competition. Once Derrick Rose went down with an injury, the East was going to be won by none other than the Heat. However, they had a bit of trouble with the Pacers after Indiana attempted to play bullyball. Then the Celtics gave them all the problems in the world; that series shouldn't have gone seven, which is a testament to Boston's heart more than anything.
LeBron James had that Game 6 where he dominated the Celtics. Last year, he also dominated games where they closed out that same Celtics team and the Bulls in the Conference Finals. But that Game 6 was like no other for LeBron; he was really, really locked in like never before. This might be the difference between last year's Finals (and, heck, 2007) and this year's; LeBron may not be scared anymore of the big moment.
Dwyane Wade is not 100 percent. He might even cost the Heat a few games trying to do too much. Chris Bosh will NOT be a hundred, either, in this series with the abdominal injury. Whether he starts or not doesn't matter; he'll be important to the Heat's attack. It's just that we have to question how effective he can be during these Finals. Bosh is still a threat, though, as he opens up the game for both LeBron and Wade.
Anything outside this threesome will be even more important. Can guys like James Jones, Mike Miller, Mario Chalmers, Udonis Haslem, and Shane Battier hit the open shot?
Miami's swarming defense will have to do their best to take out Oklahoma City's offense, which isn't exactly predicated on fantastic ball movement like Dallas from last year and San Antonio this year. But this has improved over the playoffs and that's going to be a huge key to beating that Heat D. Not only that; but Oklahoma City's players are way more talented one-on-one than those other Western Conference teams mentioned. OKC has Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden. LeBron is going to have a hell of a time with Durant. Can Chalmers stop Westbrook? Wade is going to have to guard either Russ or Harden and that's going to be painful for a banged-up guy like him. Still, can Miami's defense cause turnovers? OKC has been VERY, VERY good at taking care of the ball in this postseason (down by nearly FIVE turnovers per game from the regular season, 16.3 to 11.5).
OKC's defense hasn't been the best but it's been good enough and will play outstanding at times (9th in defensive efficiency in the regular season AND the postseason). Their ace in the hole is Thabo Sefolosha, who is one of the best defenders in the perimeter today. Of course, there is Serge Ibaka, who protects the rim as well as anybody. Don't know how much Kendrick Perkins, their best post defender, is going to play since Miami has shown some different line-ups over this postseason. Also, if Wade and James run their pick-and-roll, then what?
Before the season started, I had predicted this match-up in the Finals with Miami winning it.
But things have gone so differently. And during the playoffs, a lot of pundits said this: the healthiest team will win the NBA championship in this compressed season.
On the surface, Oklahoma City is the deeper team. Miami relying on their big three players will take a toll... and these superhuman efforts by James (and, sometimes, the hurt Wade... I have to keep emphasizing this) will catch up to them.
I think a healthy Wade (again, let's not fool ourselves here) and Bosh would make a difference here... and there will be times where LeBron James will be forced to shoulder the load all by himself. This Thunder team isn't the banged-up and dysfunctional New York Knicks, inexperienced Pacers, and also banged-up and "old" Celtics; this is a young, hungry, HEALTHY Thunder team who seem to be peaking at the right time with Durant hitting game-winners, Westbrook carrying his team when needed to, Harden stepping up with his clutch shots, etc.
It's going to be one hell of a Finals, though. We got the best possible match-up in these Finals. But even though it'll be defied in the earlier games, I just cannot overlook the health factor in this match-up. And guess what? LeBron James will probably get the blame once again, unfair or not.
PREDICTION: Oklahoma City in 6.