Yesterday, the Miami Heat began their quest for their third straight NBA title with a 99-88 win over the Charlotte Bobcats. Led by the triumvirate of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, the Heat will look to forever place themselves among basketball’s elite dynasties.
Among the exclusive list of teams to three-peat are the Lakers (both the Minneapolis and Los Angeles teams), the Boston Celtics (won the NBA title eights years straight), and the Chicago Bulls (did it twice with Michael Jordan).
The Heat are the No. 2 seed in the East for the third time in the last four years. Each of the last three years the Heat have made it to the NBA Finals, but this year the team lost the most games in the ‘Big Three’ era.
Many have speculated that the Heat will not win this year due to their struggles throughout the regular season, but today we take a look at why the Heat will be able to complete the three-peat.
The three-time NBA champion only played 54 games this year due to nagging injuries. At first it seemed that Erik Spoelstra was simply resting Wade, but the amount of missed games exhibits other reasoning altogether.
The facts are simple: Dwyane Wade is not the same player he was when he led the team to their first title back in 2006. Wade has been injury prone for the last several years, and has seemingly lost a step he had back in the adolescence of his career.
In reality, Wade does not need to be the player he once was for the Heat to three-peat. Having LeBron James on his team has made Wade a secondary option, and he has become comfortable in this position. Anyone that has seen Wade play knows that his best performances come in the playoffs, and that is where it all counts.
In the first game of the playoffs, Wade rattled off 23 points on 10-of-16 shooting from the field, including a rare three-pointer. In 34 minutes, Wade also tallied 5 assists with only one turnover. With such a high efficiency, it seems that Wade has hit his stride — meaning only good things for the Miami Heat.
The Brooklyn Nets
While many anticipated the colossal rematch in the Eastern Conference Finals between the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers, another team has emerged as a genuine threat to the Heat’s three-peat: The Brooklyn Nets.
After a horrendous start to the season, the Nets rallied to a 44–38 record and the No. 6 seed in the East. They are currently taking on the No. 3 seed Toronto Raptors in the first-round of the playoffs. In the first game of the series, the Nets took back home court by defeating the Raptors 94-87 in Toronto.
The Nets have faced the Heat four times this season, winning all four matchups. In the ‘Big Three’ era, the Nets are the only team to shutout the Heat in the regular season. With this stat, many suspect that the Nets could upset the Heat in the second round of the playoffs.
Here is some info to consider: Three of the four games were decided by one point, Dwyane Wade missed two of the games, and the last game ended on a controversial no foul call.
While the Nets certainly have a compelling story to get behind prior to the possibility of facing the Heat in the second round, there is no certainty that the Nets will have the same success against the Heat as they did in the regular season.
Dwyane Wade’s defensive presence can not be undervalued when discussing this potential matchup. In both games that Wade missed, Joe Johnson put in big numbers for the Nets while being covered by Ray Allen and others. With Wade in, the Heat have a much better chance at matching up with the Nets effectively on defense.
The Indiana Pacers
Nearly everyone at the beginning of this NBA season believed the Heat and Pacers would be the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in the Eastern Conference. Many also speculated that the Heat would rematch the Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals prior to the start of the season.
The Pacers and Heat split the season series 2-2, with two of the four games being a one possession win.
With the Heat’s lack of size inside, the Pacers have the roster to give the Heat the most trouble on paper. With Roy Hibbert’s lack of offense in the past few weeks, however, it seems that the Heat may be able to stymie the giant after all.
In their last meeting, a 98-86 victory for the Heat, Hibbert only compiled five points and one rebound with the much smaller Udonis Haslem covering him for the majority of the game.
With the Pacers falling to the Atlanta Hawks on their home floor in the first game of the series, they could be in danger of not even making it back to the conference finals.
The Heat faltered many a times during the regular season, but the team has been completely focused on their third straight title. With nagging injuries plaguing players throughout the season, the team had trouble finding the right lineup to play every night.
The Heat are still one of the deepest teams in the entire NBA, and have seemingly hit a groove as of late. If LeBron James and Dwyane Wade continue to shoot the ball effectively, it will be very difficult for anyone to beat them in a seven game series.
It would appear the Heat are a team that is built for the postseason and played the entire regular season with their eyes on another deep run. With the lights brighter than ever before, expect LeBron and company to rise to the occasion and capture their third straight NBA title.