The Miami Heat have been to three straight Finals, and have won the last two. They are using three marquee stars to make an impressive run, but as the team attempts to make a run for their fourth straight Finals, they are battling complacency on every night. There is also an upstart team that many are picking to beat the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, and overall the Heat are not the favorites to make it all back to the Finals.
The Lakers traded for Pau Gasol back in 2008, and he joined Andrew Bynum and Kobe Bryant to form a set of three stars. After he was traded there, they made three straight Finals, and won two in a row. In the 2010 playoffs, the upstart Thunder had built a nice core through the draft, and the young team pushed the defending champions to seven games in their series. During the 2010-11 season, the Lakers were two-time defending champions, and were battling complacency while everyone was high on the Thunder. Ultimately, they were knocked out by the eventual champions in the Mavericks, and their impressive run was over. The Lakers made some big changes following that season, and now they are far away from those championship days.
So, the Heat are basically going through exactly what the Lakers did a few years ago. Miami has lost a few games lately that they shouldn’t have, and their effort has been questioned this season. Last night, the two teams met, and although both clubs are heading in different directions, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol were all too familiar with what the Heat are dealing with.
“It’s not easy to sustain that motivation, that energy, that edge,” Gasol said. “Especially when you start getting injuries from guys who have gone through long runs consecutively.”
“The body also feels it, and it’s a difficult position to be in,” Gasol said. “It’s a great position to be in, but at the same time you start seeing maybe cracks here and there, and those cracks can open up later on. But every team and every situation is a little different, so I don’t know exactly how they’re doing internally.”
Kobe Bryant has gone through it twice (won three straight back in ’00-’02), and he spoke to the toughness it takes:
“Having a competitive spirit night after night is very, very tough to do, for three championships in a row, four Finals in a row,” Bryant said. “It’s tough, it’s tough to get guys going. The most important thing is being ready when the time is right. You got to make sure you have everybody healthy and make sure your competitive spirit is ready to go when the playoffs come around. That’s really the most important time.
“It’s like a malaise that kind of sets in with the team.”
Time will tell this Heat team’s results, but it’s hard not too see these similarities. Miami has a switch that allows them to play better than any team on the planet, but it’s a matter of leaving that switch on. The Pacers are a real threat to this team, and their playoff series should be one that will be remembered for decades. Let’s hope the Heat can find some energy by then.