Well folks, we finally made it.

We waited anxiously for the regular season to end, and for the NBA playoffs to churn out two true  NBA Champion Contenders, and we are finally here, on the cusp of a much anticipated NBA Finals showdown between two proud, worthy franchises.

Praise the basketball gods!

On one hand, we have the youthful, hungry Oklahoma City Thunder led by a determined Kevin Durant that has been nothing short of remarkable throughout the playoffs.

On the other hand, we've got the under-achieving Miami Heat led by King Lebron James who's literally thrown his squad on his back and carried them to another NBA Finals birth.

Even though most analysts are concerned with the Lebron James- Kevin Durant match-up (rightfully so), here are a few other things that both teams need to pay attention to:

- The Tempo
Both the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder can run the floor and score almost at will on the break, so expect some high scoring games.  However, if this series somehow winds up being a slower, "half-court-offense-based" series, the Heat have reasons to be concerned.  Whereas the Thunder have already proven in the playoffs that they have an array of different half-court weapons, the Heat have relied solely on their big three to do most of their half-court scoring.  That could end up being a huge problem in South Beach.

- Transition Defense
Like I was saying, the Thunder and the Heat have a propensity to push the ball whenever they get the chance, so naturally transition defense is going to be important for both teams.  Between Russell Westbrook, Lebron James, Dwyane Wade and Kevin Durant, we get the privilege of watching some of the fiercest rim rockers in the league battle it out on the biggest stage in basketball, and they rarely disappoint.  Each squads' ability to get back on defense will be a huge factor in this series, and both teams have proven that they can defend the rim.  In the Western Conference Finals, Oklahoma City made the San Antonio Spurs look their age by contesting almost every single layup the Spurs put up.  Eventually, their stifling transition defense forced San Antonio into a self-defeating offense that relied exclusively on their three-point shooting.  The Heat just don't give up transition layups period, well at least not often.  How many times have we seen Lebron James swat a layup to the fifth row?  I'll put it to you this way, I've seen him block enough "wide open" finger rolls to not be surpised by it anymore.  No offense, but Lebron James is a freak.

- Perimeter Production
The Miami Heat have gotten close to nothing from their sharpshooters since the playoffs started (33% from the three-point line in the playoffs). Mike Miller, Shane Battier, and James Jones have been poor to say the least, and if they can't start to seriously contribute from the outside Miami is in trouble.  With no perimeter threats, Oklahoma City can focus their defensive efforts on forcing Dwyane Wade and Lebron James (their primary scorers) into difficult jumpshots, as well as restrict the Heat's ability to move the ball effectively.  The Thunder have only shot an average 37% from behind the arc this postseason, but the difference is that they always seem to find a way to connect from the perimeter just when they need to.  James Harden , Daequan Cook, and even Thabo Sefolosha have all recently hit big time jumpers in big time games for the Thunder.  The fact of the matter is that if the Miami Heat can't stretch the Oklahoma City Thunder defense with their perimeter shooting, than their doing the Thunder a big favor.

Now that I've gotten all of that off my chest (thanks for the therapy), its time for the moment we've all been waiting for, my prediction.

Based on how Oklahoma City have continued to raise their game to meet each playoff challenger they've faced, I'm going to go against my gut and say Thunder in seven games.  They've been playing great basketball, and I expect to see more of the same.

Matt Silverston is a columnist for FootBasket. He also runs the basketball blog, Mind of Mattman. You can also follow him on Twitter.


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