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With Celtics behind them, Heat now collides with Thunder in NBA Finals

Miami decisively defeated Boston in Game 7. They now advance to the NBA Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Game 1 is tonight starting at 9 p.m. Eastern time on ABC.

By Christopher HartmanContributor / June 12, 2012

Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade, left, and forward LeBron James talk during practice, Monday, June 11, in Oklahoma City. Game 1 of the NBA Finals between the Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder is scheduled for Tuesday.

Sue Ogrocki/AP

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Boston

Though “Heat” and “Thunder” sound more like a clash of weather phenomena than an NBA Finals matchup, there most definitely will be a collision of sorts starting Tuesday night when the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder meet in Game 1 of the NBA Finals before a capacity crowd at Oklahoma City’s Chesapeake Energy Center.

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The Heat advanced on Saturday night by defeating the Boston Celtics, 101-88, based largely on the continued strong play of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. James, who scored 31 points while pulling down 12 rebounds, tallied at least 25 points in all seven games of the Eastern Conference Finals - an historic accomplishment.

Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra was once again careful about working in big man Chris Bosh, who’s still mending from an abdominal strain he sustained in the quarterfinal series against Indiana. But when he did hit the floor, Bosh hit it running, scoring 19 points in 31 minutes of game time.

As to the Celtics, their problems were several and significant. For one, they simply hit the wall with their inability to score down the stretch. From a high of 27 points they achieved in the first quarter, their scoring dropped off in each succeeding frame (to a low of 15 in the fourth period) and, after clinging to an 82-81 lead midway through the fourth quarter, allowed Miami to go on a 10-2 scoring run that they just couldn’t answer.

Secondly, Boston received exactly two points from their bench. Mickael Pietrus, whose heroics in Game 5 helped give the Celtics a series lead, simply disappeared. This particularly hurt Boston in the fourth period as their starting forward Paul Pierce went freezing cold with his shooting – managing only 7-of-18 from the field for the game. And even as all five starters managed to tally double figures, it just wasn’t enough as the team ran out of gas in the critical final minutes. In fact, the starters were pressed into unusually long service, each logging an average of just over 40 minutes on the floor. That’s particularly rough on veteran legs.

Tuesday’s matchup with Oklahoma City, by contrast, will feature powerful and youthful matchups – most notably between the Thunder’s three-time scoring champion Kevin Durant and the Heat’s three-time MVP Lebron James. But the supporting cast for each squad is arguably as talented and deep, with speedy and quick-handed Thunder guards Russell Westbrook and James Harden seeing duty against the Heat’s Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers, as well as the Heat’s Bosh who will hit the post against Oklahoma City’s Serge Ibaka in what likely will be a shot-blocking extravaganza.

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