5 Teams the Miami Heat Must Sweep in 2012-13
For the Miami Heat, the regular season may not be as important to them as it is to others.
However, there is a short list of teams that Miami must sweep during the 2012-13 NBA season in order to send a message to some of their most formidable foes.
Although it is the Heat that are usually circled on calendars throughout the league, Miami should definitely keep these matchups in mind as they push through the season and towards the playoffs where they're likely to see at least one of these teams once again.
New York Knicks
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This could finally be the turning point for the New York Knicks, who have put together a solid blend of young talent and veterans.
Clearly, like every other team in the league, New York had the Heat in mind when adding guys like Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby and Ronnie Brewer, who they hope can be another wing defender to throw at LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
In reality, last year's playoff series between these two teams may have been a lot more competitive with a healthy Iman Shumpert, who proved his was not afraid to match up with Wade.
The Knicks think they can hang with Miami.
Well, it's up to the Heat to let it be known otherwise. It's much harder to beat a team four times than it is two like the teams in the Western Conference, but you've got to do what you got to in order to get your point across.
The Heat must sweep the Knicks during the regular season and let them know nothing has changed because this New York team with confidence in the playoffs has the potential to be dangerous.
Oklahoma City Thunder
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Needless to say, the Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat met in last year's NBA Finals.
Although the Heat came out on top, there were many key plays that happened to go Miami's way that could have easily changed the course of the series.
That being said, many people are expecting the Thunder to surpass that final hurdle and win it all this year.
The Heat must look to remind the Thunder not only how good they were last year, but how much better they have become this season with their new acquisitions and weight of winning a championship lifted off their shoulders.
You already know that Oklahoma City will come in with vengeance on their mind ready to give it their all. But, this bubble can be easily deflated if their best effort is nowhere near good enough to compete with the Heat once again.
These regular season battles cannot be overlooked.
Los Angeles Lakers
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The Los Angeles Lakers can be compared to the kid on the block with the new bike. They are a hot commodity. They stand exactly where the Heat did only two years ago.
The Heat should look to send a message early and let not only the Lakers, but the rest of the NBA know that they are indeed still the defending champions.
Two emphatic victories over Los Angeles, especially one at Staples, will undoubtedly send Laker fans into a frenzy as they ask themselves, do they really have enough to compete for a title?
Just like the Heat did, L.A. is bound to run into some bumps in the road. What Miami has to be sure to avoid is allowing the Lakers to get that marquee victory over them that could ultimately propel the Kobe and company to great things.
The Heat must make a statement early and loud.
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The Boston Celtics are arguably the Miami Heat's biggest foes. They hate each other, and the fact that Ray Allen will now be playing in South Beach only adds fuel to an already colossal fire.
Boston added even more talent than the Heat and will have Avery Bradley back, a premier defender in the league ready to take on any superstar around the league, especially Dwyane Wade it seems.
The Heat may have snagged Allen, but the Celtics reloaded with the likes of Courtney Lee, Jason Terry, and drafted rookies Fab Melo and Jared Sullinger.
Doc Rivers has got his guys foaming at the mouth at the mention of the Miami Heat.
However, despite all this, the Heat still have the upper hand. They have knocked the Celtics out of the playoffs the last two years and the two are likely to meet up once again this year.
This is really shaping out to be one of the most intense rivalries in the league.
Every game that these teams play is played with playoff intensity. The Heat were swept by Boston last year, but clearly that didn't make a difference come playoff time. However, if they really want to send a message, it has to be them who sweeps the Celtics this season.
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The playoff series with the Pacers got much nastier than necessary last year, as Indiana attempted to somewhat bully their way to victory against LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
Although they put up a good fight, literally, at the end of the day they could not come out on top. Yet, Paul George recently came out and said he still believes the Pacers are a better team, despite the fact that Miami may have better players on paper, according to Mike Well of Indianapolis Star.
So, clearly the Pacers believe they have improved as well and are ready to meet up with the defending champs once again.
The first regular-season game between these guys is sure to be wild as the Pacers look to set a "tough" tone. But what they need to understand is that toughness can only get you so far.
If the Heat were to sweep the Pacers during the season, it would take away the crazy amount of confidence this group of guys seem to have when they step onto the floor with Miami.
Because no matter what they say, if they get swept by the Heat, I'm not sure that's a blow they can recover from.