5 Reasons LeBron James and the Miami Heat Could Win More Than 72 Games
The Bulls remain the only team in league history to win more than 70 games in the regular season, an amazing feat considering the strength of former Celtic and Laker teams.
When LeBron James decided to join forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, many analysts and experts, including ESPN's Jeff Van Gundy, believed that the Heat could break the regular-season record of the Chicago Bulls and win more than 72 games.
Two years, two NBA Finals appearances and one championship later, and the Heat have not looked even close to sniffing the Bulls record, though I will cut the Heat some slack for last year, as it was a lockout-shortened season.
However, this upcoming season I believe the Heat have a chance at topping MJ's Bulls. Here's why.
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In the Big Three's inaugural season two years ago, the Heat's roster outside of them was the definition of scrap heap.
With much of the salary cap devoted to the Big Three, and big signings Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem out with injury, the Heat had to get by with the likes of Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Erick Dampier, Eddie House and Mike Bibby.
Even if you do have three All-Stars, having a supporting cast this poor was always going to end up harming the Heat greatly, and at the start of the season, the Heat were easily outplayed several times.
This upcoming season, however, the Heat will surround the Big Three with a lot of firepower. Over the past two offseasons the Heat have added Norris Cole, Shane Battier, Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis.
For perhaps the first time since LeBron joined the Heat, Miami can take out the Big Three and not have to worry about leads evaporating immediately.
Also, during the course of an 82-game season, getting LeBron, Wade and Bosh vital rest will keep them rested should they need to play extended minutes in bigger games.
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One of the biggest reasons why people believed the Heat wouldn't succeed immediately was their lack of team chemistry.
This reared its ugly head on the Heat at the start of the 2010-11 season, when the Heat started out 9-8 and the Big Three seemingly could not get out of each other's way.
Fast-forward to now, and those problems seem to have disappeared.
With all alpha-dog issues solved thanks to LeBron's sheer dominance, the Big Three have figured it out, with LeBron taking the lead, followed by Wade and then Bosh.
Role players like Mario Chalmers and Udonis Haslem also accepted their lessened roles and thrived in them during the 2012 NBA playoffs. Chalmers in particular finally looked comfortable playing a starring role in Game 4 of the NBA Finals.
Coach Erik Spoelstra also determined his crunch-time lineup, which heavily featured LeBron and Shane Battier at the forward positions. With this lineup the Heat were able to execute in crunch time, something they greatly struggled with during their earlier stages.
Weak Eastern Conference
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When Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls dominated the '90s, they did so by exploiting an extremely weak Eastern Conference. This season's Heat will have a similar opportunity.
With the Bulls expected to fall back a little with the ACL injury to star point guard Derrick Rose, the Hawks in rebuilding mode, the Knicks suffering from front-office decisions and player conduct, and Orlando suffering from the ramifications of Dwight Howard's franchise-crippling demands, the East is in an incredibly weak state.
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Arguably no team in professional sports history faced as much vitriol and scrutiny as the Miami Heat over the past two years.
Everything from "The Decision" onwards was examined closely and criticized by fans and analysts alike.
The players and coaches faced extreme pressure with the majority of it placed on LeBron James and head coach Erik Spoelstra. Every move they made was scrutinized and talked about, whether they did the right thing or not.
Throw in the hatred from opposing fans and opposing teams gunning for the Heat every night, and the first two years would've been nothing short of hell for LeBron and co.
Luckily for them, much of the vitriol over the team has evaporated due to time, as well as the Heat's recent championship win.
Now that James has his ring, many of the puns aimed at him are useless, and as a championship-winning coach, Spoelstra no longer has to manage as if his job is constantly on the line.
The decrease in pressure should result in a much more relaxed and focused team.
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Just like Michael Jordan was far and away the greatest player in the game when the Bulls won 72 games, LeBron James is far and away the greatest player in the game today.
After a dominant regular season in which he received his third MVP award, LeBron raised his game to a level only Jordan himself has reached during the playoffs.
Whether it was shutting down Carmelo Anthony, going for 40-18-9 against Indiana, dropping a 45-point masterpiece against the Celtics in a must-win Game 6, or completely outplaying Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA Finals, LeBron played with his full repertoire of moves throughout one of the most dominating playoff runs ever.
With his uncanny ability to defend, a capacity to play all five positions and an ever-expanding array of post moves, LeBron's ceiling keeps on getting higher.
Now with his first ring, the pressure that he has faced since he was drafted out of high school has for the most part disappeared.
A LeBron James with less pressure than ever is a scary sight for the rest of the NBA, and it is the key reason why I believe the Heat could win more than 72 games next season.
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