Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 6/11/12

The Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder are set to square off in what is one of the most anticipated NBA Finals in quite some time. Some of the biggest stars in the game will face off with the potential matchup of Kevin Durant and LeBron James taking center stage.

The Heat looked dead in the water in the Boston series, but played their way out of a 3-2 hole and earned some confidence in the process. With Chris Bosh back, and seemingly healthy it gives the Heat a big body in the middle to compete with Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins. James has been phenomenal in the postseason so far making up for last years’ Finals debacle and picking up the slack for his struggling teammate Dwayne Wade.

Even though James has shown what he’s capable of the Heat will be better off if he doesn’t need to score 40. Wade and Bosh are pivotal in this series because the Thunder

Wade will need to play better in this series if he wants to win his second championship.

are athletic and versatile, which allows them to score with anyone. Defensively the Heat will need to be better than they were last series as well. Oklahoma City has much younger and dynamic scorers than the Celtics do, and Miami struggled against them.

The Heat may be considered the favorites by some, but I really believe a lot needs to go right for them to beat this Thunder team.

I was pleasantly surprised to see the Thunder beat the Spurs. I mean no disrespect to the Spurs, but they aren’t the most entertaining team in the league. Kevin Durant and company really showed a lot of maturity to battle back in the series. Beating an experienced, talented team like the Spurs verified my belief that this group plays at a more mature level than their age suggests.

Everyone hates the Heat because they are a “super team”, but the Thunder has just as many stars, and just as much talent as they do. James Harden has been coming off the bench almost all year and has consistently been putting up big numbers. It appears his game has taken another step forward and is quickly becoming the Thunder’s third star. If he can continue the form he’s been in recently it will be too much for the Heat to handle.

The x-factor in this series is Russell Westbrook. He can be the unselfish player I’ve seen him become lately, or the guy who competes with his own players for glory. If Westbrook continues to play like he has this postseason it could be an easy series for the Thunder, but something tells me his ego might be a little more alive against the Heat.

Ibaka and Perkins should dominate inside. Not that they’ll ever see the ball unless they get an offensive rebound, but Bosh is coming back from an injury and isn’t much of a physical threat anyway. If the Thunder are smart they will use that matchup mismatch to their advantage.

Miami is arguably the most hated team in sports and everyone is rooting for them to lose. If Durant and Westbrook play together and include their big men it could be a short series with Wade and Bosh out of form, but Westbrook is an enigma so anything can happen.

Thunder in 6.

This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.

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