There are so many previews out there by so many good writers and analysts, that I’ll keep this exceptionally brief lest you click out of the page at the first sign of *another* person’s thoughts and predictions about a series we’d just like to begin already.
Although I don’t know (or really have any gut feeling even) who will win the 2012 Finals, I think there are three discernible scenarios that could explain a Miami failure:
1) An injury to LeBron James or Chris Bosh. This kind of goes without saying, particularly in LBJ’s case.
2) LeBrondown III.
3) Miami–particularly its role players and Chris Bosh–shoots the ball poorly. LeBron’s team has suffered major (I think it’s a fair adjective here) upsets in each of the past three post seasons. The most recent two were LeBrondowns. But three years ago, against Orlando, LeBron played some of the best basketball in recent playoffs history. He averaged 38.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 8 assists over the 6 games, shooting 49 percent from the floor. Problem was, his teammates couldn’t hit shots–especially wide open shots from downtown that they had been hitting all season long. That Cavs team–a juggernaut, really–shot 39.3 percent from 3 over the regular season, good for 2nd in the NBA. It did so in high volume, shooting the 5th most 3’s in the NBA. In the 4 losses to Orlando, they shot from 3:
8-25 .320 (Game 1)
5-26 .192 (Game 3)
6-22 .273 (Game 4)
9-20 .450 (Game 6)
Mo Williams, an All-Star substitute that year, was a lights-out 43.6 percent from 3 in the regular season, shooting a whopping 5.2 of them per game. These elite numbers have something to do with Mo’s excellent touch from range, but were also due to LeBron’s historically-great ability to set up open shooters. Cleveland built an entire roster, flawed in other ways as it may have been, around the concept of LeBron driving and kicking to open shooting specialists. In Games 1, 3 & 4, Mo shot a combined 5-21 from 3, well-below his season average and immensely devastating to his team’s chances of beating such a well-coached Magic team. In Game 6, he and his teammates shot better, but they happened to face Dwight Howard on a night that he would not be denied on his home floor (40 points, 16 rebounds, 4 assists.)
We saw what happened in the Boston series when Chris Bosh returned to form and buried jumper after jumper in Game 7. It immediately rattled the Celtics help-early defense and allowed LeBron to wreak havoc in the paint.
If the Heat make jumpers, they will win the Finals. They don’t have the same shooting prowess as the 2009 Cavs (35.9 percent as team, 10th in NBA, and 23rd in NBA in attempts) but Chalmers, Battier, Jones and Bosh are capable of hitting when open. It isn’t as compelling as LeBron versus Durant Heroball, but it’ll be even more important.
Should be fun.