And there's no denying that how Durant and James play each other will be a big factor in deciding the outcome of this series as well as how Russell Westbrook matches up against Dwyane Wade and which player out of Chris Bosh and James Harden has a bigger impact off the bench. But while those matchups will be important, the outcome of this series could hinge even more on how the role players perform.
The Thunder's Western Conference Finals series against the San Antonio Spurs showed why that may be the case. While Durant, Westbrook and Harden played well against Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili; Oklahoma City's role players are what got them over the top.
In each game there was a different role player producing big plays for the Thunder. Whether it was Thebo Sefolosha getting hot from behind the arc and playing great defense against Parker or Serge Ibaka going a perfect 11 for 11 from the field. The Spurs also got great play from guys like Stephen Jackson, Boris Diaw and Kawhi Leonard.
The role players gave James and Wade a little help during those four games but not enough to help Wade and James overcome Boston's furious four of Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. By Game 5 though, the Celtics had figured out how to totally neutralize everyone not named Wade or James.
Bosh would enter the series for the first time in Game 5 but he contributed very little during the Heat's Game 5 loss. Bosh and the role players were equally ineffective in Miami's Game 6 win. James had to have a historic 45-point, 15-rebound night to stave off elimination at the hands of the Celtics.
Game 7 was a different story though with Bosh pouring in 19 points and eight rebounds while Battier hit four three-pointers to help the Heat advence to their second NBA Finals appearance in a row. Bosh's play couldn't have come at a better time with the Heat getting ready to matchup against Durant, Westbrook and Harden.
I say this because the same factors that helped them win in each team's last playoff series was also an important factor in their wins against each other during the regular season. Miami and Oklahoma City split the two-game series 1-1 with both teams winning at home.
Home-court advantage won't be as big of a deal during this series as how they won those games though.
In Miami's win, James had to have one of his 34-point, 10-assist efforts in order for them to pull out their five-point victory. James had scored only 17 points in their earlier loss to the Thunder in Oklahoma City so the 34 points he put up when they won in Miami was his response for his lackluster play in the previous game. It seems that just like in the Boston series, James had to feel the pressure before he responded with a big game.
James shouldn't need any motivation to put up huge numbers in this series though. This is James' third Finals appearance and he is determined not to go 0-3 in the championship series.
Despite how well James plays though he will struggle to come up big against one of the few players that can play him one-on-one in Durant. Durant is taller, longer and is just as explosive as James is on the offensive end which makes this one of the most interesting matchups since Magic Johnson and Larry Bird were dueling each other for championships during the 80's.
And if that happens then how these team's role players perform may determine the outcome of this series. Either way it goes, this is guaranteed to be a historic series.
Do you have a favorite team or player you want to know more about?
Email your questions to email@example.com and I’ll devote a post to it. Send your name (or an alias) with the question and get a shoutout on the site.
Want to offer a rebuttal of one of my posts or simply feel you can do better?
Then email your article along with your name (or an alias) and I will post it.
Roosevelt Hall is an NFL Blogger for The Sport Mentalist and an NBA Blogger for The Sport Mentalist 2. He is also a Sports Reporter for Pro Sports Lives. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and be sure to follow him on Twitter @sportmentalist.