The Thunder will beat the Heat when the two teams face off in Game 2 of the 2012 NBA Finals tonight. Here's why.
B-ball fans from Oklahoma City to Miami will be dropping everything to watch the contest, which comes two days after the Thunder blew the Heat away in front of a blue and orange sea of adoring OKC fans.
But the game is practically in the bag for the Thunder, who have the youngest, freshest line-up of long, talented stars in the NBA, and the series may be a foregone conclusion as well.
Never mind the fact that teams that win the first game of an NBA Finals series go on to win the title 72. 7 percent of the time. These are not typical Finals teams, as they each feature a game-changing superstar in LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
And on Tuesday we saw touches of greatness from both players, as the Heat looked great in the first half, with James throwing up big numbers and Shane Battier and others contributing key shots to keep the team in the lead as they headed into the locker room. But the Thunder came back out even stronger in the third period, and Durant and co. wore down the only-slightly-older Heat, keeping James impotent for most of the fourth quarter, during which Durant dropped 17 points in an offensive explosion.
And that may likely be the theme that continues throughout the remainder of the best-of-seven Finals this year. James, Dwyane Wade and the other Heat heavy-hitters will pile on the offense in the first half or three quarters of games, but Durant and Westbrook will clean up in the fourth quarter, taking advantage of Miami's much-discussed propensity for choking.
As LeBron himself acknowledge following Game 1 on Tuesday, the Heat fell apart in the second half: We had a good game plan to start the game but that third quarter really hurt us. They made shots and we missed shots. They made more plays, especially offensively.
Heat coach Erik Poelstra offered his own take: This one's behind us, they pounded us in all the muscle areas. When we're not defending we don't get opportunities. We were thinking we were putting ourselves in a position to win and then they just went away from us.
And if the games to come continue to follow that formula, the title could go down in four games, much as it did in the 2007 NBA Finals, when James' Cleveland Cavaliers fell to the Utah Jazz in a sweep that sent shockwaves to LeBron's massive ego.
And LeBron, who promised fans multiple championships for himself, Chris Bosh and Wade in Miami, will need to be placed on suicide watch in a week or so, as he's destined to take a back seat to the real big man in Nikes: his off-season friend Durant. The two are leading the NBA into an exciting new era, as Sports Illustrated outlined in a cover story in this week's edition, but LeBron's boasts and prodigous skills will be pushed aside when Durant cuts the net down after winning the Finals and claiming his status as the newest Bryant, the only one who can fill Jordan's shoes, Magic's legacy.
So this Finals will go to the Thunder, and the history books will mark this week as the one that annointed a new king of the court, and a new global superstar, one who hugs his mother at every home game, and who Kobe Bryant described as a five inches taller version of himself.
Say goodbye to the LeBron era that never arrived and hello to Durant's time. This Finals is going to the Thunder, and who knows how many more are to follow. It'll be an exciting decade of basketball.