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OKC Thunder-Miami Heat: Breaking down the matchups

Darnell Mayberry breaks down each of the matchups for Sunday's game, including the intriguing Kevin Durant-LeBron James matchup.
BY DARNELL MAYBERRY, Staff Writer, Published: March 24, 2012

Analysis: You wouldn't think two defensive-minded centers that combine to average 7.7 points and are surrounded by All-Stars and future Hall of Famers could change the complexion of this game. But if either of them has a chance to, it's Perkins. The Thunder's center could be a big key in OKC protecting the paint and helping to shut down Miami's pick-and-rolls. There's also the chance Perkins is assigned to Chris Bosh rather than Anthony, meaning Perkins' defense on the Heat's third scoring option could help decide the outcome of the game.

Edge: Perkins

James Harden vs. Shane Battier

Analysis: This one isn't even close. Harden is on his way to becoming the Sixth Man of the Year. Battier is just a nice complementary player who comes off the Heat's bench. Although Battier can still have an impact with his perimeter shooting and man defense, he'd essentially have to help hold Durant to less than 20 points to match the offensive production Harden is capable of providing through scoring and playmaking. Most teams' second units don't have an answer for Harden. If Battier defends Harden, though, Battier could be the biggest challenge Harden has seen all year.

Edge: Harden

Thunder bench vs. Heat bench

Analysis: Both can and do go 10 deep. The Thunder trots out Derek Fisher, James Harden, Lazar Hayward (or Royal Ivey in place of the injured Daequan Cook), Nick Collison and Nazr Mohammed. Miami will counter with Norris Cole, James Jones, Shane Battier, Udonis Haslem and Ronny Turiaf. The Heat are missing sharpshooter Mike Miller because of an ankle injury. Neither B Team is asked to score much with trios on their respective teams forming the No. 1 and No. 2 highest scoring threesomes in the league. But in Harden, the Thunder has a sixth starter in a sense and a dynamic player that the Heat could only dream of.

Edge: Thunder.

Scott Brooks vs. Eric Spoelstra

Analysis: Heat coach Spoelstra got his head coaching job just 13 games earlier than Brooks in the 2008-09 season. For comparisons sake, Spoelstra is 183-109 since taking over. Brooks is 163-118. Both are considered two of the top up-and-coming coaches in the league. Brooks took his team to the Western Conference Finals last season. Spoelstra took his team to the Finals. Both struggle with half-court offense and getting their two biggest stars to play well off each other. But Spoelstra separates himself by adapting. He's changed his philosophy to fit his personnel, implementing a more up-tempo offense while applying more pressure defensively create turnovers that the Heat thrive on in transition.

Edge: Spoelstra