By: James Smith
The two editions of the conference finals in the NBA took on an eerie similarity in their storylines: the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder, two younger teams with undeniable talent, took down the Boston Celtics and San Antonio Spurs, older teams that have had in recent years some air of royalty about them. Now, they’ll meet in the Finals.
For both teams, the difference ended up being that they had the most brilliant player on the floor. The Spurs took the first two games from the Thunder, only to see Kevin Durant decide that there was no way he was going to let his team lose and lead the Thunder to roll off four straight wins. In the East, meanwhile, the Heat won the first two games, only for the creaky, battered Celtics to reach down into some deep reserve of competitive will to gut out three straight victories. Then LeBron James, the most gifted athlete on the planet and a frequent victim of these same Celtics, finally decided that enough was enough and dominated Boston over the last two games.
So, what lies ahead in the series, which kicks off Tuesday at 9 PM?
For starters, this series will be at least in part a referendum on who the best player in the league really is. LeBron might be the most talented all-around player in the game, but Kevin Durant has been the league’s leading scorer for three consecutive years and will be out to demonstrate where power in the league really lies.
More important, perhaps, is how the outcome of this series could affect the face of the league for the next several years. The Heat’s deconstruction of Boston has probably already made inevitable the dismantling of what has been the East’s foremost power over the last five years, just as the Thunder’s casual dismissal of the Spurs almost certainly represents the end of San Antonio’s 2000s dynasty. But if the Thunder bests the Heat in this series, you can count on grumblings that the LeBron / Wade / Bosh tripling hasn’t worked out and that this new three-headed beast needs to be dismantled. Meanwhile, the young talent on the Thunder will be poised to dominate the West for the next three to five years.
On the other hand, if LeBron plays the way he did at the tail end of the Celtics series, it could mean the coming of age of the Heat -- and the birth of a dominant new dynasty in the NBA. No pressure, LeBron...
[Pic via Wikimedia - Keith Allison]