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Memphis Showing That They Are Best NBA Finals Opponent for Miami

Memphis Showing That They Are Best NBA Finals Opponent for Miami

May 10, 2013

The Miami Heat started the 2012-13 NBA season as heavy favorites to repeat as NBA champions. It seems like every event during the course of the season has only strengthened Miami’s candidacy for the championship, while weakening every other competitor.

At the start of the season potential NBA final match-ups between Miami and any of the Western conference favorites (Oklahoma City, San Antonio, LA Clippers and LA Lakers) looked pretty exciting. With Derrick Rose (Chicago) and Danny Granger (Indiana) missing early in the year and then the Boston Celtics losing Rajon Rondo, it looked like the best chance at stopping a repeat championship for the Heat would be out West.

However, those same four favorites out West have fallen apart over the course of these NBA playoffs. The Lakers were broken long before the postseason, but were dumped in the first round along with the Clippers. Meanwhile, the Spurs have been dealing with injury problems all season long and there are still concerns about the fitness of star veteran players Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan. The Thunder lost Russell Westbrook to an injury during their first round series and have really struggled for offensive and defensive balance while relying solely on Kevin Durant.

Does anyone really want to see LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh have an even easier time against the Thunder than in 2012? Or that same trio take on an older and weary looking veteran trio leading the Spurs? Surely nobody is really interested in seeing either of those series.

The clue to the best possible match-up remaining for the NBA Finals has been evident in Miami’s series against Chicago so far. The Bulls have not only played the Heat tough so far in this series, but they were also the team that stopped Miami’s 27-game winning streak during the regular season.

Chicago’s formula is clear. They play extremely tough on the inside, they play an extremely physical brand of basketball, they rebound well on both ends of the floor and they pressure the basketball, while attacking the star players. They punish players driving to the lane and they contest just about every shot.

That’s a formula that only Memphis has the ability to replicate among the remaining Western conference teams. Zack Randolph and Marc Gasol play like bulls in the middle. They are physical, tough and play playoff basketball. They are also both pretty useful offensive players who can pull players away from the basket. They make the lane an unpleasant place to be and they will score points.

Meanwhile, Mike Conley and Tony Allen are two of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA. They harass and disrupt ball handlers. They force turnovers and they have the sort of size to trouble the game’s best shooters. Conley is particularly under-rated as a point guard. He knocked down 26 points in Game 2 against Oklahoma City in their series.

The Grizzlies will have a tremendous challenge to get through the Western conference and would start a series against Miami as heavy underdogs. However, it is becoming more and more apparent that Memphis would be the most intriguing and toughest match-up for the Heat in the NBA finals. Neutral fans should be cheering Memphis on.

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