Center Kendrick Perkins, left, and guard James Harden are two key players… (Jeff Roberson / Associated…)
Key stat: Oklahoma City is 8-0 in the playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena, where the decibel level can be more hazardous to eardrums than the tarmac at nearby Will Rogers World Airport.
Outlook: The NBA Finals should be sponsored by Marvel Comics, so rich is it in superstars and their accompanying nicknames. There's King James versus Durantula. Flash against The Beard. Seemingly every fan outside Miami has cast the Heat in the role of the villain, still miffed nearly two years later by "The Decision" (or was it that ridiculous introductory party in which LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh low-fived fans while walking along a runway as if they were debuting the Marc Jacobs spring collection?).
Miami's Big Three wants to avoid losing in the Finals for the second year in a row after getting Bosh back from injury and gutting out a pair of win-or-else games against Boston in the Eastern Conference finals. Some might say James will be appearing in his first NBA Finals with the Heat after he was repeatedly a no-show in the fourth quarter last year against Dallas, but the most valuable player of the regular season was exactly that in Game 6 (45 points, 15 rebounds) and Game 7 (31 points, 12 rebounds) against the Celtics. James, Wade and Bosh are averaging a combined 67.4 points in the playoffs, nearly identical to the 67.1 points averaged by Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden.
With the star trios potentially canceling each other out, the series could ultimately be won by complementary players. And the Thunder appears to have an edge there with the defensive wizardry of Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins and Thabo Sefolosha, enhanced with the steadying presence of veteran Derek Fisher.
Prediction: South Beach will again be the place to party … for the visitors. Thunder in five.