5 Biggest Roadblocks to Another Miami Heat Title in 2013
With the Miami Heat finally meeting their expectations and hoisting the Larry O'Brien trophy last June, the same fire to win it all just naturally doesn't exist anymore.
If anything, the road to repeating as NBA champions will be even tougher as the Heat might run into a variety of roadblocks, such as a lack of motivation, complacency, a change in identity, injuries and increased competition.
Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra has discussed the challenges of winning another title, even refusing to use the word "repeat," in order to highlight the fact that this is a new season, and last year's triumphs cannot help Miami this year.
Miami was able to get the monkey off its back and put the naysayers to rest, but that comes at a price: they can no longer use that as fuel.
The Heat have to rely on each other and the desire to build a dynasty with their current team to be champions again.
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Injuries are a part of the game.
When the injury bug bites, it usually locks its jaws pretty tight.
LeBron James, Mario Chalmers and Ray Allen are the only rotation players that have played in every single game so far this season for the Heat.
Dwyane Wade, Udonis Haslem, Norris Cole, Shane Battier and Chalmers (left game early vs. Denver) have all suffered from minor injuries this season and been forced to miss some time.
Miami isn't exactly a young team and injuries are bound to happen on an aging roster that relies heavily on its veterans.
The Heat were able to survive Bosh's nine-game absence in last year's postseason, but needed spectacular play from James and Wade to avoid elimination.
If injuries begin to pile up around playoff time, it could potentially be a roadblock in the Heat's title chances, as it is for any team vying for a ring.
However, as long as the Heat's Big Three stay healthy, Miami will be the frontrunner to win it all again.
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In case you haven't noticed, the rest of the league is only getting better.
Not to mention the reloaded Lakers, who will be a title contender once they figure out their identity.
The NBA is deep in both conferences this year, meaning it's not going to be a cake walk for the Heat to reach the pinnacle again.
Overall, this slide is geared towards Oklahoma City. The defending West champs look scarier than ever, having won 15 of their last 17 games, while boasting the league's best record at 21-5.
However, it's the Thunder's hunger to win a ring that is scariest of all. Similar to the Heat after the 2011 Finals collapse to Dallas, the Thunder are motivated by their pain. They want to avenge last season's meltdown in the Finals, and bring the trophy to OKC.
If the Heat and Thunder meet in the Finals again, Miami will have its hands full with a very deep Thunder team, who have the benefit of pain fueling them to win.
Change in Identity
A crucial ingredient for a team to win a championship is having an established identity.
For the Miami Heat, that identity has been suffocating defense.
Strangely, that hard-nosed defense that helped them win a title last season hasn't been present this season.
Miami has allowed numerous opponents to torch them from the perimeter this year, while letting 100 or more points in 11 of its first 17 games this season.
These types of defensive woes are uncharacteristic for a Heat team that prides themselves on defense, and can be seen as a shift in their identity.
Fortunately, the Heat's defense has been rejuvenated as of late and so the Heat has returned to its stingy roots.
However, the Heat must be careful not to lose that strong defense as it has become a significant part of their identity.
The Play of Dwyane Wade
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Much has been said about Dwyane Wade's decline this season.
While most of it is a product of not having anything to say about LeBron James anymore, there is at least some merit to it.
Wade is averaging 19.7 points per game, the second lowest of his career, while posting a career worst in rebounds (3.9) and steals (1.3).
A lot of factors come into play regarding Wade's numbers, and his demise has been largely exaggerated.
However, if the nearly 31-year-old isn't playing at the top of his game and/or is limited by injuries come postseason time, it could derail the Heat's championship hopes.
Wade's production is needed greatly on a Heat team that relies heavily on the play of its superstar trio.
LeBron and Chris Bosh cannot carry the Heat to a championship alone, especially with plenty of other teams possessing enough firepower to overcome that.
Wade has been playing much better as of late and is averaging a career high 51.5 percent from the field this season, but he will need to sustain that throughout the year for Miami to have real success.
We saw just how much of an impact Bosh's injury was in last year's postseason, with the Heat needing Superman performances from Wade and LeBron just to get out of the second round.
If Wade suffers an injury or plays subpar, the Heat might not get so fortunate again.
There is no reason to believe Wade won't play like himself in the postseason, but it's a legitimate concern for the Heat's repeat chances.
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The No. 1 roadblock that could prevent the Miami Heat from winning a championship in 2013 is complacency.
Easier said, the Heat are their own worst enemy.
We have seen the Heat's lackadaisical ways multiples this season, from their embarrassing loss to the lowly Washington Wizards to their blowout defeat to the Knicks.
It's no secret that the Heat play uninspired ball from time to time. The team's defense fails to guard the perimeter or the inside, allowing for All-Star performances from average players (see Wayne Ellington).
Three out of six Miami losses have been total blowouts, where it appeared they weren't even giving a semblance of an effort on defense.
Even in some of their victories this season, the Heat would allow below average teams (Houston, Milwaukee, Cleveland) to hang around for the entire game because of lazy defense and then rely on last-second heroics to bail them out.
Chris Bosh even admitted the Heat don't have that same fuel to win the championship anymore.
‘Yes, it’s impossible to have that same fire, that same hunger,’ Bosh said in an interview with Fox Sports.
It's pretty clear that the Heat are going to somewhat coast through the regular season until they amp it up in the postseason.
However, "turning it on" in the playoffs is a very risky mindset. If Miami doesn't take the season more seriously, there's always potential for that mindset to boil over into the postseason.
Even if the Heat do turn it on, there are teams that will be hungrier and more motivated than they are. Complacency, now and in the future, is certainly a dangerous roadblock that might get in Miami's way of going back-to-back.