Chris Bosh vs. Kendrick Perkins
Analysis: This is the position where Thunder fans lose their collective minds. Many blame Perkins for last year's Finals loss and conveniently ignore the struggles of James Harden (37.5 percent from the field and 31.8 percent from 3-point range), Westbrook (13.6 percent from 3-point range) and Sefolosha (29.6 percent from the field and 18.2 percent from 3-point range). Bosh remains the direct beneficiary of having James and Wade as teammates, whose mere presence often leave Bosh with uncontested jumpers off kick-out passes and easy putbacks when he's left unchecked underneath. Because both teams have the ability to go with smaller lineups, look for Sefolosha and Kevin Martin to get extended minutes, which was the case on Christmas.
Ray Allen vs. Kevin Martin
Analysis: Two of the best point producers off the bench could bring an entertaining sideshow. Allen had struggled from the field lately, going 4 for 28 (.143) in a five-game stretch heading into Tuesday night's home victory against Portland. The NBA's all-time 3-pointer shooter still commands respect and must be closely guarded. Martin, who was acquired in the Harden trade, loves his new home gym and is averaging 17.0 points while shooting 51.9 percent from 3-point range and 91.3 percent from the free-throw line at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Martin must supply the points and clutch open shooting that Harden failed to provide in last year's Finals. Martin had 15 points in 35 minutes in the Christmas game.
Ray Allen, Shane Battier, Norris Cole, Joel Anthony, Mike Miller vs. Kevin Martin, Nick Collison, Reggie Jackson, Hasheem Thabeet, DeAndre Liggins
Analysis: With last season's Sixth Man of the Year traded to Houston and the subpar return of Eric Maynor off knee surgery, the Thunder bench has been closely scrutinized this year. So far, however, OKC's bench has a clean sweep in shooting statistics, leading the NBA in field-goal percentage (.468), 3-point percentage (.392) and free-throw percentage (.798). Miami's bench ranks 22nd, fifth and eighth in the same categories. OKC's bench ranks 21st in scoring and the Heat ranks 27th. Miami ranks 14th in minutes played and OKC ranks 21st. The Thunder ranks 24th and the Heat 25th in rebounding, 21st and 26th in assists and 15th and 22nd in steals. The Heat ranks 18th and OKC ranks 23rd in blocks and seventh and 11th in turnovers.
Erik Spoelstra vs. Scott Brooks
Analysis: Spoelstra is blessed with three Hall of Famers who are in — or near — their prime. James and Bosh are 28 years old, Wade is 31 and each owns a ring after last season. They also have combined for 26 All-Star appearances. Brooks had two budding Hall of Famers in Durant and Westbrook, who are both 24 years old and have combined for seven All-Star games. The James-Wade-Bosh combo is considerably advantageous for the Heat, which means the Thunder has to work harder with more moving parts to succeed, which makes Brooks' chore more difficult. OKC relies heavily on chemistry, which often flourishes under solid coaching. The Thunder, which is 46-10 after a loss the last three seasons, is impressively consistent.
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