Luc Richard: Heat in six

June, 12, 2012
6/12/12
2:40
PM ET
By Luc Richard Mbah a Moute
ESPN.com
6-8 Bucks forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is seen as one of the NBA's best defenders. Virtually every night of the Bucks' season, Mbah a Moute was asked to defend the opposing team's star, whether that was a lightning-fast point guard or a seven-footer with unlimited range. It has given him valuable insight into how the league's finest scorers operate. Milwaukee didn't make the playoffs this year, so he's using his work ethic to share some knowledge about the playoffs. You can read more of his insight on Facebook, Twitter and his website.

It’s been a great postseason and I think everybody got the matchup that they wanted here in the Finals.

Oklahoma City will be confident going in. San Antonio was a very good team and a hot team. Beating them four games in a row is huge. Having that confidence of winning four straight against a very good team can’t hurt. You can see the maturity level of the Thunder has risen in each round of this postseason. Playing San Antonio, a team with experience that had won so many games in a row was a big test for them, and being down 0-2 was a huge hurdle to get over. As a young team, sometimes, the pressure can force you to get out of your game and make you try to do too much so you don’t fall behind 3-0. They did the opposite. They kept their composure and made the adjustments. Once they figured it out, they really stuck to it. That said, it will be a very different series in terms of x’s and o’s.

Miami proved something to me by beating Boston the way they did. I had Boston winning that series and it almost came to that, but for them to win those last two, with LeBron playing the way he did, that showed me something. They’ve got the supporting cast playing well too. Chris Bosh came in and played well in Game 7, so did Shane Battier. Having those guys play well while LeBron and D-Wade are doing their thing, it's very good for Miami.

LEBRON VS. KD

Everyone has been waiting to see the MVP against the scoring champion. It’s the biggest storyline of the series. They want it too. As a player, you want to go against other great players. Historically, we’ve always seen great players go against each other in the championship, going back to Magic and Bird. That’s what this series comes down to, those two guys guarding each other, trying to win their first title.

That’s a matchup that you can’t run away from. At the end of the day, when the game is tight, the ball goes to KD and whoever is on him is going to have to make an impact defensively. LeBron is a very good defender. He’s shown that over the years and you saw what he can do to a good scorer when he was on Carmelo Anthony. He did an amazing job on Carmelo.

On the flip side, KD is the most important defensive player in this series. LeBron is playing at a high level right now and he makes them go. If Durant can slow him down, I don’t know if the Heat are able to win. KD is very long, that’s something that people don’t realize. He’s 6-9, almost 6-10, with long arms and he can challenge a bunch of shots. So I think what he needs to do is keep LeBron out of the paint. LeBron has been living in the paint. Keep him out of there and try to make him take contested shots, see what happens.

I don’t even know how it’s going to play out. I’m also very excited to see it. It’s going to be very interesting, because those guys are very good at what they do. KD is going to score and LeBron is going to affect the game by rebounding, passing and scoring.

LeBron is a different player this year, by far, than he was going into last year’s Finals. People don’t realize it yet, but what he’s been doing this year has been amazing. Not just the numbers he’s put up but the way he’s been playing. He’s got a task in his mind -- to win the championship -- and he’s going out there every night to accomplish that. It shows in the way he’s been playing all year. You can just see it in him.

The way he came out and played in Game 6, he won that game for them and that was pretty much the only way they were going to win there. He did exactly what he had to do. For him to step up and have a big game like that, after taking all the criticism, was huge. Then to turn back around and play the way he did again in Game 7, that was impressive to me.

I’ve seen LeBron have a lot of good games, getting triple doubles and doing a little bit of everything, but I’ve never seen him like this. He’s on a mission.

In that Game 6 he was in the zone and he was determined. He only had two assists, so he knew what he needed to do, to come out and score and be dominant for his team. He did that against the Pacers too when they were in danger of going down 3-1, he came out and played physical and just imposed his will on Indiana. He took it to a higher level.

The way you have to defend LeBron is to try to keep him from getting comfortable, try to get in his face. He seemed unstoppable in Game 6, but I do think the Celtics could have done a lot more. They weren’t as physical as they could’ve been and they didn’t throw any different looks at him. They never once tried to double team him, they kind of just let him play the whole game. I would try to give him different looks or send a double team his way early if he looks like he’s starting to get comfortable.

DEFENSE CREATES OFFENSE

I think Miami is the better defensive team and they matchup pretty well at every position with OKC. LeBron and Wade are good defenders, but all of those guys are very athletic and very fast defensively. They have good rotations so they can get to balls, block shots and pickup steals. That allows them to get out and run.

Sometimes all they need is for you to miss a shot because once they get the rebound it’s no time before they’re off with numbers on the other end. They don’t even need to turn it over to get out in transition, they just need to make you take a tough shot and they’re gone. Oklahoma City plays much the same way. They have very athletic guys on the wings and inside their guys can get out and run.

Both teams have that style, but I think Miami is just better at it.

For Miami, I think you need to have LeBron on Durant, then have Chalmers on Westbrook and Wade on James Harden. OKC could put Serge Ibaka on LeBron, but I’m not sure that’s the best matchup for them. I would matchup Durant on LeBron, Thabo on Wade, Russell on Chalmers and Serge on Chris Bosh.

MIAMI'S X-FACTOR: Chris Bosh

I’m interested to see how Bosh impacts the series. I think people forgot how good Chris can be. He’s always been one of my favorite players to watch. People tend to overlook him because LeBron and D-Wade overshadow him, but before he went down, Bosh was one of the premier power forwards in this league. He’s a guy who averaged 22-23 point and 10-11 rebounds and was dominating every night.

As players, we know, because we’ve seen him play that way and we know what he can do. You saw it in Game 7 against the Celtics and I’m sure we’re going to see it more in this series. He stretches the floor and can shoot with a consistent jump shot. He can go into an isolation situation and get you some baskets or he can go out and shoot the three. But he’s also very good around the basket and can finish.

He needs to play well pretty much every night too for Miami to win this series. OKC is just so good on the frontline with Serge and Perkins, Miami can’t afford to go without scoring production from their frontline. You want to negate what Ibaka brings and also keep him on his toes. When Serge doesn’t have to worry about the guy he is guarding, he can impact the other offensive players with his blocking ability. But if you put him in a situation where he has to guard, you can get him into foul trouble and that obviously helps you offensively.

With Bosh playing well now, I could see Spoelstra going with Joel Anthony more at center because of his size and shot blocking ability, matching up with Perkins. Then, if they have to make an adjustment they can go smaller with LeBron at the four and Bosh at the five. That would make the Thunder go small and that might work in Miami’s favor. LeBron is obviously someone who can guard fours. We saw that against Indiana when Bosh went down, so they can mix and match like that.

OKLAHOMA CITY’S X-FACTOR: The Bench

Oklahoma City’s strength is their depth and the number of weapons they have that can score. I think that makes them the better offensive team of the two. Their bench can be relied on to score more than Miami’s bench. Having James Harden coming off the bench and a second unit that can score really helps them.

Harden has been playing very well this postseason, but I still think he has another gear, a breakout game in him. He’s a guy that could be an All-Star if he played on another team with a different role. He has a complete game. He can always create a basket for himself or others. He passes the ball really well, hits the right spots and he’s a knockdown shooter. He reminds me of Ginobili in his prime. The sky’s the limit for him and I’m a big fan of his game.

As a defender, you don’t want to let him play that freelancing style that he likes, where he has the ability to make decisions, beat you off the dribble and create space.

Harden is a lefty, so one way to limit him is to make him go right, but like with any scorer, it’s really about being physical with him and making him uncomfortable. He knows how to come off screens and plays a lot of pick and roll, so you can impact him with different coverages in the pick and roll. You can try and trap and get the ball out of his hands or force him to go a certain way and keep him there with the bigs. It will be an interesting matchup between Harden and Wade. I’m sure Dwyane is going to play him tough, but James has seen some pretty good defenses so it’s nothing new.

PREDICTION

I think Miami wins it in six games. They have the experience and athletically they match up well with OKC. With Bosh back, it makes it even tougher on the Thunder to match up against them.

The Heat definitely have a chip on their shoulder and I know LeBron has a lot more than a chip on his shoulder. He has been a man on a mission this year and especially during these playoffs. He’s the one guy who can come out and have the game that changes the whole series. Since he’s on Miami, I have to give Miami the edge.

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