The Miami Heat haven't looked the sharpest as of late, but there are few who would be surprised to see Miami win it all. That being said, what this second half of the season has shown us is that the Heat will not simply be handed the trophy. They will have to fight for it like every other team in the league.
Miami has one of the most talented rosters in the league, yet often times, they run into matchup problems with other elite teams in the league.
It seems as though the Heat will look to shift into the next gear come playoff time and are perfectly fine cruising through the regular season. Well here are a few teams they might run into whose light may shine a little brighter.
Just like last year, the Chicago Bulls are getting the best of the Heat in the regular season. Miami does a solid job containing D-Rose, but it is often times Chicago's role players that step up and beat the Heat, just like they did last night.
Throughout the season I have repeatedly stated that the Heat should not be concerned with the Bulls for a few reasons. One being that Chicago relies on D-Rose too much and the Heat do a good job of containing him and two, Chris Bosh will get the better of Boozer four out of seven times. It will be the two big men who decide the fate of both teams.
However, what Boozer showed me yesterday is that he realizes just how important he is to the Bulls, especially when they match up with the Heat. What separates Miami from many of the elite teams in the league, the Thunder and Bulls, is their All-Star inside presence. But it was Boozer who outplayed Bosh last night. If Boozer plays with just a little bit of consistency, the Bulls bench continues to produce, and D-Rose gets back in his grove, the Heat better watch out and root for anytime they match up against.
Before Linsanity, before Amare's injury, before D'Antoni's resignation, I have always believed in the New York Knicks. Not so much as contenders, but as a team nobody wants to go through in the playoffs, especially in the first round. They've got too much firepower, too many guys with the ability to score,and with Tyson Chandler holding things down in the middle, the Knicks are a much better defensive team.
If N.Y. can keep playing good basketball and bump up to that seventh seed, the Heat might be in some trouble. There is not another team in the league who matches up with Miami as good as the Knicks do. Melo and Bron, Amare and Bosh and D-Wade and Shumpert are all great matchups. Point guard play and points in the paint would likely be the difference in a series between these two teams, a battle the Knicks could easily win.
A lot of things would have to happen for the Los Angeles Lakers and Heat to meet up in the playoffs. However, if those things do end up happening, that could be bad, really bad news for Miami.
Time and time again we hear about how small the Heat are and how big the Lakers are. The series would be a matchup of two very contradicting styles. But with Sessions at the head of things and a healthy Kobe to help control the tempo, the Lakers could very well take down the Heat. Metta World Peace is one of the few small forwards who can guard LeBron one-on-one in the post. Kobe versus Wade is always interesting, while Bosh has to go through two seven-footers inside.
This would be one for the books, a great NBA finals, and for the first time in Kobe's career he would likely be considered the underdog. We know Kobe loves a challenge.
It doesn't get any faster, strong, younger, quicker, more athletic than the Heat. Then again, there's this time out in Oklahoma who would beg to differ. The Thunder match, if not surpass, Miami's athleticism on every level, at every position. They've built their team the so-called "right way" and have been labeled almost the anti-Heat of the NBA.
The Heat may have a better record at home this year, but if you ask around OKC's home court is about as hostile as it gets, especially come playoff time. If this series did go seven, to describe how hard it would be to win Game 7 in front of OKC's home fans would take a whole slide in itself.
That being said, just like the matchup with the Lakers, a lot of things would have to happen for these two teams to match up. Although the Heat got the win last week, it's no secret they have been a very inconsistent and streaky team. The Thunder are slowly but surely climbing the ladder of NBA supremacy and to reach to the top you've got to beat the best. Something OKC is not only willing to, but looking forward to doing.
You may be very surprised to see this team on the list, but the bottom line is, the Heat have nobody that can contain Dwight Howard. Superman, more times than not, has a field day against the much smaller and less athletic Heat big men.
He's got to have the games against Miami circled on his calendar by now.
Not only that, but Howard is surrounded by shooters that can get hot any time, any place. Last year, the Mavericks hit a steak where it seemed like they couldn't miss, and look what that got them.
If the Orlando Magic can put together a run like that this year, and Howard can up his play just a little in hopes of attracting more talent to Orlando, the Magic could do some damage.
Of course, Howard's injury status would play a huge role if this series cane to fruition; but with a healthy Dwight Howard, the Magic are a dangerous team for the Heat to cross come playoff time.