Ladies and gentlemen, the day we have all been waiting for since this lockout season began in December is finally here. The majority of NBA fans wanted to see this star studded final and now we have it. There is a lot of excitement surrounding this final and many intriguing match-ups to look for; Westbrook vs. Wade, Ibaka vs. Bosh and of course Durant vs. Lebron. However, I don't think its as much about the individual match-ups as it is about the team. I believe the team that can play together the best will walk away with the Larry O'Brien trophy. Here we will look at a few numbers that provide a glimpse as to what the Thunder need to do to beat the heat and win the NBA finals.
There have been many close game in these playoffs and it is very possible that more than one game in this series may come down to who makes their free throws down the stretch. The Thunder were number one during the regular season in free throw shooting percentage as a team and are number one in the post season as well shooting an amazing 83.5% as a team from the line. Meanwhile the Heat are shooting 72.3% from the line as a team. OKC needs to continue to shoot well from the line and try to put themselves there as much as possible. Even though Miami has been allowing fewer points per game than the Thunder in the playoffs, the Thunder have been scoring more points per game and shooting at a higher field goal percentage as a team. OKC needs to continue to play at a high efficiency on the offensive end.
The Thunder also need to continue moving the ball well. Although they were at the bottom of the assists category during the regular season, in this post season they are averaging 18.7 assists per game (ranked #6 among playoff teams) which is more than Miami at 17.3. They also need to continue limiting their turnovers. This was a major weakness of theirs during the regular season but something they continued to work hard on to improve and the hard work has paid off. They have gone from averaging 16.3 turnovers per game during the regular season (last in the NBA) to 11.5 in the playoffs (tied for second with Philadelphia behind Denver). Miami is averaging 13.1 turnovers per game in these playoffs. This will be a key factor for the Thunder in this series.
In addition, Oklahoma City will have to continue playing physical and playing hard on the defensive end. Some of their big wins in these playoffs have come as a result from big plays and stops on the defensive end of the floor for example, the Pau Gasol steal that lead to the cold three-point game winner by Kevin Durant in game 4 vs the Lakers. They were the number one shot blocking team in the regular season and are averaging 7.5 blocks per game in the post season. Miami is averaging 5.3. In addition, they are averaging 9.1 steals per game while Miami is averaging 7.5. OKC will need to continue this trend in the finals. Since both teams are very efficient offensive teams and know how to put a lot of points on the board, I think this series may come down to who comes up with the big plays on the defensive end.
Of course once these finals begin tonight, these numbers and percentages I just threw out there don't mean a thing. All it does is provide a glimpse of what the Thunder need to do to win this series and capture their first championship. In a nutshell though, they need to continue to do what they've been doing through out these playoffs and that's fight hard every second they're on the floor and play as a team. If they do these things, I believe they will walk away the 2012 NBA champions.