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NBA Finals

Thunder vs. Heat

Odds and Analysis

6/12/12

The 2012 NBA Finals will tip off at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City on Tuesday when the Thunder host the Miami Heat in Game 1.  Many basketball experts predicted this championship matchup before the season, although the way both teams got to this point was very hard to project.

The Thunder (-5, O/U 195) finished second in the Western Conference during the regular season and swept the defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks in the first round followed by series wins over the third-seeded Los Angeles Lakers in five games and the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs in six.  They trailed the Spurs 2-0 before ending their 20-game winning streak and taking four in a row to advance.

The Heat also finished second in the East but had a fairly clear path to the NBA Finals after Derrick Rose tore his ACL for the top-seeded Chicago Bulls in Game 1 of their first-round series against the Philadelphia 76ers.  The Bulls lost that series in six games, and Miami's main challenge the rest of the way was how to play without Chris Bosh after he suffered an abdominal strain in Game 1 of the conference semifinals against the third-seeded Indiana Pacers .  The Heat beat the Pacers in six games after trailing the series 2-1 and saw Bosh miss nine games total before returning in Game 5 against the fourth-seeded Boston Celtics, who lost the Eastern Conference Finals in seven.

Each team has a superstar debated to be the best player in the game, with Miami's LeBron James earning his third NBA MVP and Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant winning his third scoring title.  One or the other will gain bragging rights with a victory in this series in what could be an ongoing rivalry over the next few years.  The teams split two regular-season meetings this year with each winning at home, and the Thunder have taken four of six between them overall both straight-up and against the spread.

 The series price has Oklahoma City as a -170 favorite against a Miami team that is a +150 underdog and may finally put Bosh back in the starting lineup after coming off the bench in three straight.  Bosh's ability to challenge the Thunder inside, especially Serge Ibaka, will be one of the key matchups in the series.  The Heat do not have any clear advantages in the frontcourt or backcourt like they have had in previous rounds, and they also do not have the same kind of depth if Bosh starts.

Oklahoma City guards Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Derek Fisher will be X-factors against Miami's Dwyane Wade, who joins Thunder center Kendrick Perkins as the only starters to previously win titles.  Fisher has lots of experience in the NBA Finals with five championship rings from his time with the Los Angeles Lakers and mulled signing with the Heat after he was waived by the Houston Rockets.

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