OKC Thunder-Miami Heat preview: Experts weigh in on if Sunday's game is an NBA Finals preview

Is the first meeting of the season between the Thunder and Miami Heat a preview of the NBA Finals? We get some national experts' opinions on the topic.
COMPILED BY JOHN ROHDE, Staff Writer, jrohde@opubco.com Published: March 24, 2012
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Ian Thomsen (Sports Illustrated): "It's the most likely matchup for the Finals, and if these teams wind up meeting in June then I'm sure we'll all be looking back at this game for clues. But the Lakers and Spurs are going to make the Western side of the playoffs difficult for the Thunder, and the Bulls have earned maximum respect in the East. It's a provocative game for sure, but it's not like it's this year's version of the Celtics-Lakers. Because neither OKC nor Miami has earned the kind of respect where you say no one is going to be able to beat them. That's not so much opinion as it is fact — when they've earned that respect then we'll all know and take it for granted, but it's up to them to earn it. So while this is a very good game it's not that big of a deal — yet. On Fisher: I think that was a great pickup for OKC by way of the daily example he will provide to that young team. The Lakers may not miss him so much now, but they'll wish they had him in the playoffs, because that's when the Thunder will realize his value."

Lang Whitaker (SLAM): "I do see this as a Finals preview. I picked the Heat and Thunder to make the Finals in the SLAM NBA Preview before the season started, and so far I've seen nothing from these teams to make me change my mind. And I love the Fisher signing for the Thunder — gives them depth, shooting, leadership."

Chris Sheridan (Sheridanhoops.com): "Did I miss something? Did Derrick Rose get traded to the Heat? Because unless he did, this is NOT an NBA Finals preview (although one of the teams, the Thunder, remains my pick to emerge from the West). No disrespect to Miami, but they are not getting past Chicago in the playoffs. They are not deep enough, especially at center, and they do not put the ball in Dwyane Wade's hands enough at the end of close games. Also, they do not have a latter-day version of Robert Horry as the Thunder now do following the signing of Derek Fisher. He will win at least one playoff game with a dagger of a 3, mark my words."

John Schuhmann (NBA.com): "I think this is a likely Finals preview, but I've actually come to think of it as a little less likely over the last few weeks. The resilience that Chicago has shown this season (playing well without Derrick Rose) has me thinking that Miami's road back to The Finals will be tougher than it was last year, as long as Rose is healthy by May. In the West, I think the Lakers became a much bigger threat to knock off the Thunder by upgrading from Fisher to Ramon Sessions at point guard. They've been a good defensive team all season, and Sessions should give them the lift they need offensively. OKC's addition of Fisher doesn't change my thinking at all, because I don't see him having much of an impact."

Mark Murphy (Boston Herald): "I absolutely look at this as an NBA Finals preview, though I think a hot Rose could upset the Miami half of this pairing. Derek Fisher is a nice veteran addition to any team, but at this stage in his career I don't think he seals the deal for any team. There's a lot of good point guards out there, and most can take him individually."

Mitch Lawrence (New York Daily News): "I picked Miami to beat OKC at the start of the season and still feel that way. As long as the LeBron, Wade and Bosh are upright and playing at the tops of their games, I don't see anyone beating them in a seven-game series. Injuries, of course, could change all of that. I hope for Scott Brooks' sake that Fisher can give him some punch. But I am also aware of Derek's age — who knows how much tread he has left on his tire. And also, I think his role as NBAPA president during the lockout prevented him from doing what he had to do in the offseason to prepare for another NBA season, and that probably has had some adverse affects, too. I did a column earlier this year where Patrick Ewing — who was the union prez the last time there was a lockout — pretty much chalked up his injury-plagued lockout season to the fact that he was not able to devote nearly as much time to working in the offseason as he previously. As Patrick told me, too much negotiating and not enough working (on the court)."

Brian Mahoney (Associated Press): "Bulls-Thunder was my pick this year. Wouldn't surprise me at all if Heat beat Bulls, but I see no reason not to stick with the Thunder pick, whether they had Fisher or not."

Eastern Conference scout (as told to ESPN.com's Marc Stein): "There's nobody super scary in the West, so they're solid enough to get to the Finals. And they picked up just the right guy (Fisher). No. 1: Fisher's been through the wars and he might have a calming influence on Westbrook. No. 2: He's been a big shot-maker for a long time and someone you have to respect at the end of the game. You're not just going to leave him. He's got the rings, baby. The ring's the thing. All the stuff (OKC's young stars are) trying to get, Fisher's already got. So I think they'll listen to what he has to say. And from a competitive standpoint, Fisher going there kind of gets back at the Lakers. I don't know if the Lakers can stand in (OKC's) way. Harden's playing at a high level, Durant is Durant and Westbrook is Westbrook. Their front line looks pretty small sometimes when they're playing against the Lakers, but when Durant goes to the 4 and Fisher is spreading the floor, it's going to be pretty hard to guard them if they can figure it out."



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