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Miami Heat Winning with LeBron James and Playing Don Nelson's 'Nelly Ball'

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Miami Heat Winning with LeBron James and Playing Don Nelson's 'Nelly Ball'
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The road to an NBA championship has always been dominated by half-court execution and having players play traditional roles. Hence the abundance of titles of two storied franchises: the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers. They have always been blessed with Hall of Fame players that epitomize traditional roles at a very high level. 

The last champions with a smallish team were the 2004 Detroit Pistons, led by Chauncey Billups. They played the necessary defense, but head coach Larry Brown preferred walking the ball up the court.

The idea that a team could win championships by continuously running is not a new idea. Don Nelson brought it into play as head coach of the 1977 Milwaukee Bucks purely out of necessity. Center Kareem Abdul Jabbar had broken his hand in a fight and Nelson was forced to pick up the tempo of the game with a smallish lineup. 

Nelson's most successful stint with this style of play was with the Golden State Warriors teams of the late '80s early '90s. These teams featured the trio of Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullins, a group known as "Run TMC."

He ran it in Dallas in early 2000 as well and upset the same Dallas team in his 2007 return with the No. 8-seeded Golden State Warriors. That was the last hurrah for his unconventional strategy. Or so we thought.

Nelly Ball provides teams with a unique strategy that utilizes smallish type players on the court and creates mismatches at all positions.  

Denver Nuggets head coach George Karl added a little defensive flavor to it and has the added advantage of the altitude. Former Phoenix Suns head coach Mike D'Antoni made Steve Nash a two-time regular-season MVP with it. Neither was able to find the right mix of players that were able to sustain any defensive intensity to produce championships.

Will Miami Heat sustain their championship run playing Nelly Ball?

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Nelly Ball was validated when combined with the talents of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and their willingness to play defense at a high level. Other NBA teams cannot prepare for any one player when all three are in the top five at their position in the NBA. 

Now that Miami has shown Nelly Ball can produce a championship, the question is, can they repeat? Because as much as things change, they seem to remain the same.

Dwight Howard of the Lakers looms large in the Western Conference, as viewers drool over the regular-season matchup with Miami and will be downright giddy if the two squads meet in the 2013 NBA Finals.

Traditional  Eastern Conference bigs like Andrew Bynum, Tyson Chandler and Roy Hibbert all want to have a say in the matter. Meanwhile, the Boston Celtics have built a solid bench that will afford them some flexibility in response to Miami’s success with small ball.

It is up to the South Beach crew to show Nelly Ball is more than a one-trick pony. It is up to LeBron James to show its genius with not one...

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