We are well past the point of wondering whether the Miami Heat can handle the best of the West when it matters most.
After all, Miami was a slight underdog entering the NBA Finals last season, started that series with a loss in Oklahoma City and then ripped off four straight wins to capture the championship.
And this Heat team, on paper, is better than the one that won that title.
Still, buried inside the Heat's 11-3 start is another number, a 1-2 record against the established elite of the Western Conference. Nor was either loss, in Los Angeles against the Clippers or in Memphis against the Clippers, especially close. Even Thursday night's five-point victory over the Spurs, who are currently tied for second in the West, wasn't decided until the final minute—not to mention Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green didn’t even attend the game.
"They only come so often, so just to have that opportunity to play a good team like San Antonio," Bosh said.
It was the first of two opportunities this season. Said Bosh:
It's always a measuring stick. We win the games we are supposed to win, and then when it's up against the juggernauts of the league, it's always a good time to establish yourself and see where you are. And guys don't forget. Later on in the postseason, that gives them them confidence—you might see them again.
Assuming the Heat get out of the East, which is a reasonable assumption considering the current flaws of recent contenders like Boston, Chicago and Indiana, which team would the Heat least like to see?
Note: All quotes were collected throughout the course of the author's work covering the Heat for the Palm Beach Post. All statistics were accurate entering Nov. 30, 2012.