2012-13 NBA predictions: OKC Thunder-Miami Heat NBA Finals won't be an exact copy

BY JOHN ROHDE Published: October 29, 2012
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photo - Miami's LeBron James (6) looks to get the ball past Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant (35) during the NBA basketball game between the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Sunday, March 25, 2012. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman
Miami's LeBron James (6) looks to get the ball past Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant (35) during the NBA basketball game between the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Sunday, March 25, 2012. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman

This time, the Thunder will figure it out.

Look for a repeat of last year's NBA Final, but with a different result. OKC will even the score against the Miami Heat and claim the first of potentially several championships.

“Not two … not three … not four … not five … not six …”

You can't win your second NBA title without winning your first, but LeBron James' title countdown officially has begun.

The Thunder's championship count will commence in June. The franchise has been in existence just four seasons, and expectations already have skyrocketed.

Only one player on the OKC roster owns an NBA championship ring, but no longer does center Kendrick Perkins need to explain to a bunch of 20-somethings (and 32-year-old Nick Collison) all the work that goes into reaching the Finals.

Thunder players are one year wiser, one year hungrier and one year better, and that will be difference between last season and this season.

In the end, the Thunder will edge the Heat in seven games.

Other tidbits to look for:

*The team with the better record in Los Angeles will be the Clippers (57 wins), not the Lakers (56 wins), but it'll be close. Too many growing pains (and back pain) for the Lakers to survive.

*Denver (51 wins) will not be the powerhouse that some experts project.

*Dallas (47 wins) will make the playoffs only if Dirk Nowitzki returns by Dec. 1.

*Minnesota (44 wins) will make the playoffs only if Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love are together on the court by Jan. 1.

*The New Orleans Hornets (34 wins) will quickly become OKC Lite.

*Houston (24 wins) hasn't been this bad since 1982-83 (14 wins).

*Miami (62 wins) is 12 victories better than anyone else in the Eastern Conference.

*Brooklyn (49 wins) will be the talk of New York (46 wins).

*Philadelphia (44 wins) will underachieve because Andrew Bynum can't handle the pressure of being “The Man.”

*Chicago (42 wins) will need Derrick Rose to return by March 1 in order to make the playoffs.

*Orlando (20 wins) will be as bad as everybody thinks, maybe worse.

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