The Miami Heat are a hard team to beat. Because of that, they can beat any team in the East without much trouble and that’s why they have won the East in back-to-back years.
Are they vulnerable? Yes. Are they easy to beat? Not at all.
LeBron James, the face of the franchise, may be playing his best basketball ever. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are great players having good years and Ray Allen, Mario Chalmers and others can compliment them.
Miami isn’t a great rebounding team, but they could make a trade for a big man and they are fine for now. If the Heat make the Finals, they will most definitely be challenged, but they are the reigning champions.
Out West, the Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers and San Antonio Spurs are all having great years and their records are all better than Miami’s.
Miami is in the much weaker conference. While the New York Knicks, Chicago Bulls, Atlanta Hawks, Indiana Pacers and Brooklyn Nets all have talent, it will take a lot for any of those teams to upstage the defending champs in a best-of-seven series.
On Friday night, the Heat fell victim to the Pacers by a score of 102-89. While James did well, his team lost another game. The Heat have been struggling on the road, and their road struggles continued. The Heat have had some trouble with the Pacers, as they almost lost to the Pacers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals last spring, fighting them off in a tough six-game series after falling behind 2-1.
However, James has been very consistent as the leader of the Heat. He took 14 shots against the Bobcats Monday night, but scored an astonishing 31 points. It’s good enough to take 14 shots while also dishing out eight assists, but to score 31 points with just 14 shots? That’s unheard of.
While Paul George has played very well for the Pacers and Roy Hibbert and Danny Granger are very good players, when compared to the “Big Three”–Miami’s core of James, Bosh and Wade–they don’t match up at all. James averaged 30 points a game against Indiana in last year’s playoffs and Wade easily had his highest-scoring series against Indiana with 26.2 points a game.
Miami had more trouble with the Boston Celtics last year, but it’s hard to consider Boston a threat after Rajon Rondo’s injury, Allen’s departure to Miami and the lackluster play of the team.
Andy Hu of Bleacher Report even reported that Kevin Garnett could be traded to the Clippers, a clear sign of rebuilding. Even with the assist machine on the floor, the Celtics weren’t winning and they will likely be a seventh or eighth seed if they even make the playoffs.
Will the Celtics face the Heat? Maybe. Will they be a threat to the Heat? Most definitely not.
The only teams Miami actually has to worry about are the Nets, Pacers, Hawks and Knicks. Even when you narrow the contenders down to those five teams, it seems hard to envision Deron Williams and the Nets winning the Eastern Conference and playing in the NBA Finals. It’s unrealistic, as these teams are inexperienced and lack talent when compared to the East’s best in Miami. Miami has blown out Brooklyn by 13, 20 and 30 points this year, so they seem pretty good there.
New York brings a tougher challenge, but they are just like a lot of other good 3-point shooting teams: they live and die by the 3. They have some chemistry problems with Amare Stoudemire as well and I don’t see them matching up with the Heat. James is a very good defender and I think he can take Carmelo Anthony. If someone other than Anthony has to beat the Heat, it’s not going to fare well for the Knicks. They aren’t deep enough to handle Miami for seven (or fewer) games.
With a big man like Paul Millsap or Al Jefferson, the Hawks can be decent. Atlanta’s biggest flaw is rebounding, as they are 26th in the league. The Heat are 30th, but that can definitely be improved with the addition of a big man.
Even without it, they seem to be fine. Indiana can give them trouble on the boards, but rebounding doesn’t completely determine the outcome of a game. New York and Atlanta aren’t good rebounding teams either, so Miami isn’t in huge trouble there.
The size advantage definitely goes to the Pacers, but Miami is definitely more explosive and they average 102.3 points per game and outscore their opponents by an average of 5.8 points, vastly superior to Indiana’s 92.0 point-per-game average.
Miami is in a very good position, and it’s hard for me to see them going down before the NBA Finals. It’s not that there aren’t capable teams in the East. It’s that there is no team that matches up with Miami in every aspect, and there isn’t a team that can handle the wear-and-tear of a full series with the defending champions.
And that’s why Miami will coast into the NBA Finals.
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