There is a lot of talk about a rematch going on this year and that is something to be excited about. Nothing will be better than seeing the boys in black raise that O'Brien above their head and seeing Timmeh go out on top. But there is a definite different vibe going on this year, we are better. Of course, all you hopefully reading this already knew that, but here are some other key reasons why I think we are better.
1.) We just played the Heat:
Yes, yes I know most of you think I'm crazy by saying this but hear me out. The comparisons are quite easy to make (except for the amount of attacking we will see from certain players). Kevin Durant is LeBron, the lengthy Small Forward that makes you cringe when his hands are on the ball is no longer going to hit calm down 3s at a ridiculous percent anymore. Although LeBron will probably post up more than KD during this next series it is easy to compare these two. They are both players of a generation, superb athletes and were both guarded by a rotation of Kawhi, Danny, Manu and Bobo. Getting those players ready for Lebron was done by proving their chops against the prolific scorer that is Kevin Durant.
How else is the Thunder the Heat? Look no further than Wade and Bosh. Wade plays with a reckless abandonment when he attacks the paint and is constantly throwing his body into players to draw fouls, sound like anyone we know? If Westbrook didn't come to your mind after the word reckless than I don't know what to tell you. Having Kawhi and Danny take turns guarding Westbrook definitely will help them when they have to take care of Wade, who isn't what he once was. They will be able to concede a jumpshot more than they could with Westbrook and can use their length to stay in front. And what about Bosh? The floor spacing part of the equation. Sounds an awful lot like how the Thunder use Ibaka in their offense to try to open up the lane more than anything and only shoot out of necessity when everyone has collapsed and he is wide open. Bosh doesn't have the same defensive skills as the Ibaka but his role in the offense is known and was mimicked in a way this past series. Which leads me to my next point.
2.) We are more prepared this year
Last year we ran through the playoffs like our butts were on fire, we were the more rested team, and the team that was ready for anything and everything. We proved it in game one but then the series turned into blowouts. That was because, in part, Pop was less likely to try different lineups that he isn't to opposed to this year. Hell, 30 different starting lineups in this season is ridiculous. By getting to a floor spacing mentality against the Thunder allowed Pop to have another option and Spoelstra another look to try to prepare for.
Last year to prepare for the big series we played the fluffy and cute Grizzlies, whose fans are more rabid than their players, who we steamrolled in 4. We were so ready for another physical series that when we got to a team with star power all over we could no longer just pack the paint and attack, we had to try more of our motion offense. Regardless, we should have won this year, but more so I expect us to win this year.
3.) BENCH AND MANU
Stop me if you've heard this one before, but our bench is a helluva lot better than last year. We got rid of the hired gun from last year and replaced him with two guys that can both shoot and play defense (somewhat). We replaced the defensively inept Gary Neal (that collective groan you hear is from Milwaukee and Charlotte) with his back up Patty Mills and Marco Belinelli, granted Marco doesn't play the best defense but he sure can annoy some players. Regardless the bench has been fantastic this year and will be vital to the series this year, even CoJo who, like Patty, will be able to annoy Heat "point guards" the full length of the court. Look for Pop to keep the minutes fluid and spread out to keep a balanced attack.
It's a battle this year folks, grab your guns, we're going to war.