There is only one team that matters in this year’s edition of the NBA Playoffs. Ok fine, maybe I should rephrase that: there is only one team whose results matter this year. That is because anytime a two-time defending champ enters the post-season, the biggest question that needs to be answered is whether or not they will be able to three-peat. Of course, this time around the three-peat contender couldn’t be anymore polarizing than the Miami Heat. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh will look to lead their team back to the promised land, but with the team struggling relative to their recent lofty standards, doubt in Miami’s ability to three-peat is rampant.
Certainly much of the doubt comes from the people who hate the Heat, as successful teams and dynasties attract many haters jealous of the team’s success. The Heat team which seemed so invincible at one point appears to have more than a few chinks in their armor. Last year at this time the Heat were coming off a 66 win season, including a 27-game win streak, the second longest in NBA history. Miami was playing like a winning machine and no other team could crack the code. This included first and second round playoff series wins against the Milwaukee Bucks and Chicago Bulls in which they only dropped one game.
Looking like they were going to roll to title number two, doubts began to seep in as the Indiana Pacers, a young up-and-coming opponent, pushed the Heat to seven games. Then the experienced but aged San Antonio Spurs had Miami on the ropes and were seconds from winning it all until Ray Allen drained a miracle three to help the Heat pull out an improbable win in seven games. Many felt the Spurs got robbed and the Heat had no business winning the series, despite Miami getting to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy for a second straight time.
The doubts from last year’s playoffs seemed to continue to haunt the Heat this season, with Miami winning 12 fewer games than a year ago and losing the No. 1 seed to the pesky Pacers. Assuming they get past the Charlotte Bobcats, the Heat’s road will likely include a date with the Brooklyn Nets (basically the newer and younger Boston Celtics) and a rematch with the Pacers who now hold the home court advantage. This all comes before an NBA Finals matchup with a Western Conference champion who will be battle tested and very deserving based on the depth and competitiveness of that conference. It doesn’t look easy for a team without all their mojo from last year’s regular season, but then again, who said three-peats should be easy?
For you Heat bandwagoners looking for hope, you can rest a little easier if you put stock in gambling odds, as betters in Vegas gave Miami the best odds to win the championship at 2 to 1. And LeBron James is still LeBron James, the best player in the game right now. The Heat are still an experienced and talented team with a been there, done that attitude. If every team played its A-game every night, the general consensus is that the Heat’s A-game is still a cut above the rest. That is why ultimately it will be considered at minimum a mild upset if anyone but Miami isn’t standing alone at the end. Therefore the question of a Heat three-peat remains the supreme question that the NBA Playoffs will answer.