During the 2012 NBA finals, we saw the Miami Heat smash the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games. LeBron James finally redeemed himself and won his first ring, alongside Chris Bosh and D-Wade. It’s true that the Heat put their Championship chances in jeopardy, after Bosh’s injury during last year’s Playoffs. However, The King stepped up and zipped the mouths of all his critics about his late-game performances and his inability to deliver in crunch time.
So what has really changed since then?
Well, Miami’s chances have surely become better. LeBron, after a close-to-unreal season won his 4th MVP award in the last five years. The Heat recently knocked off the Bucks in just four games. They broke the franchise record for most wins in a season, with 66. They are putting on display a game that proves they possess what it takes to repeat. Plus they have a more powerful roster from last season. After managing to retain the core of the team, they added Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis in their arsenal. They were really tough for any team to stop throughout the season. Most of their opponents had to just pick their poison when they were facing them.
Is there a team that can really beat the Heat in seven games?
First of all, it was a season with many injuries of star players. Even when the Playoffs started, many key players for strong teams were not in their full health.
Let’s take it one by one. The most dangerous opponent for the Heat at the moment is the Oklahoma City Thunder. Despite the fact that Durant lost his fellow superstar Russell Westbrook, they are still arguably the best team in the West. Although Durant is having another great season putting up huge numbers, the team could actually be less powerful than last year, when they got hammered by Miami. Kevin Martin is surely a great player off the bench and a terrific shooter. However, the loss of James Harden is surely was costly for Oklahoma. Now, with Westbook sidelined, there were many voices that the repeat just got easier for the Heat.
Apart from the Thunder, the Spurs could post a threat for the Heat, at least theoretically. Gregg Popovic’s veteran ensemble is always a countable opponent. They showed their force in the first round when they swept the injury-depleted Lakers. Health is a concern for them, too. Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker experienced some injuries and were not at their 100% at the start of the Playoffs. They should be ready come NBA Finals time.
In the West, the Indiana Pacers and the New York Knicks are the two teams that could seriously assail the Heat. The Knicks rely much on the offense of Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith and that could be a problem for them. Keeping in mind that the Heat’s defensive system is very effective against the pick and rolls and also the fact that Miami has the defensive guru in the name of Shane Battier in their roster, it could get tricky for the Knicks to exploit them.
Indiana on the other hand proved that they came to fight. They broke New York’s home court advantage last night, taking Game 1 of their series. They also troubled the Heat extensively during their matchup last year. Miami finally advanced after Game 6. Nevertheless, LeBron and Wade hit the wall of Indiana’s big men, Hibbert and West. Should the Pacers roll past the Knicks in the East Semis, the Eastern Conference Finals will really be interesting. Of course they are still playing without their rstar Danny Granger, who is out due to a knee injury.
Miami will have to overpass the obstacle of the Chicago Bulls. This is yet another of the many teams that lacks of its best player. Derrick Rose, one of the best players in the NBA has yet to play this season. There is much speculation about his return during these series. However, nothing is certain and of course it’s questionable which version of him we’ll see after his extensive time off the courts. Chicago will also play without All-Star forward Luol Deng, at least in Game 1.
There is no doubt that the Heat are capable of winning any team currently in the NBA even with all players at full health. But now, their road to their second consecutive Championship might be a bit easier.