Many who follow the NBA assume the Heat are going to the finals and are going to win when they get there. So really the biggest question is, who is going to meet them there? The fight out in the Western conference for that spot in the finals is a hard one to call, especially with teams like Golden State making a big statement by beating the Nuggets in the first round.
At the beginning of the season with the trades done it looked like we were set for a Heat-Lakers final with Kobe, Dwight and Nash taking the Lakers to South Beach. But it became quickly apparent that this was never going to happen as the chemistry wasn’t there (like 2010 in Miami) and they were plagued by injuries, which were amplified by them hitting key and old players. So if not the Lakers then who?
When the Clippers went on a 17 game winning streak it looked like no one in the West could stop them, as they flowed perfectly and perhaps too much credit was given to coach Del Negro for that and not enough to Chris Paul for running the offence on point. However when the playoffs came along it was clear that this is not a playoff ready team yet as they still struggle to perform on the biggest stage.
One team who clearly has no problems performing in the playoffs are the Spurs. You just need to take a look at their track record to see that they can handle the best of them in the post season. The Spurs are the quintessential mix of old and new school. With Duncan, Parker and Ginobili all having rings and then their young talent in Leonard among others. This combination seems to work for San Antonio as they are one of the most consistent teams the NBA has seen for a long time. Not only in the results they get but in their roster as they only ever seem to make minor changes to it every year and never an over haul. However you have to think that will come soon with their big three ageing and when they retire how will the front office manage it? Rebuild through the draft or get pieces in now that can replace the ageing stars. This year they have had few injuries and few mishaps as they have played their way straight into the second round (and possibly further).
The team they face is the Golden State Warriors who seem to have come out of nowhere as Stephen Curry (my most improved player) has been a gold mine with the two man play between him and David Lee. This young team are very exciting this year and have shocked a few of us. But you have to wonder how far they can actually go with this formula? They seem to be handling themselves well against the Spurs, in no small part due to Coach Jackson.
Even if they manage to top the experienced Spurs they will have to face either the Thunder or the Grizzlies. Both of these match ups are going to be hard. The Griz play such old school basketball with their two bigs Gasol and Randolph (Z-Bo) they are hard to get past as they just. Don’t. Stop. It is hard to stop the inside play of these two big men, even if Z-Bo can’t jump. The Warriors’ forwards will have a hard time playing them, if they get that far.
Looking at Oklahoma City, they have the pedigree now after getting to the finals last year. Proving that they have finished their rebuilding and are true contenders. There are only two other men in the league who can compare to Durant’s scoring, and they are Lebron and Melo. Both in the east. However one guy cannot get you to the finals and with Russell Westbrook missing his first ever games of his career due to an injured knee, the Thunder’s bigs are going to have to step up! Both Ibaka and Perkins need to play a bigger role scoring and rebounding if the Thunder want to top the Griz.
So out of these four teams that have a chance to face the Heat in the finals who do I think will make it? Personally I think the safe money is on the Griz right now as long as they don’t falter against the Thunder they can face down the Spurs or the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. A Heat-Griz final will be an exciting one and will finally prove that Marc has passed his older brother Pau.