2013 NBA Title Is Officially Miami Heat's to Lose

Roy Burton@thebslineContributor IMarch 2, 2013

MIAMI, FL - FEBRUARY 26:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat looks on during a game  at American Airlines Arena on February 26, 2013 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The Association has officially been put on notice: The road to the NBA championship runs through the Miami Heat.

Not because LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Co. are the defending champions (even though they are), but because Miami is simply playing at a level right now that most teams in the league can only aspire to reach.

Even while looking (somewhat) mortal during their 98-91 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on March 1, the Heat showed that they're capable of taking out the best teams in the league even when their shots aren't falling.

To Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra's credit, he and his team have now found a way to win 13 times in a row. But prior to the game, there were more than a few who believed that the Grizzlies would put an end to the Heat's impressive streak. Not only had Memphis won eight games in a row coming into the night, but they had also beat Miami 104-86 when the teams met back on Nov. 11.

Nearly four months after that initial meeting, it's unclear as to whether or not Miami had revenge on their mind. What is clear is that as well as the Grizzlies played, the Heat still managed to shoot nearly 47 percent from the field and better than 52 percent (10 for 19) from beyond the arc.

And on a night when a suffocating Memphis defense harassed LeBron James into a 4-for-14 shooting performance, the best basketball player in the world finished the game with 18 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds.

The fortunes of the Miami Heat don't rest entirely on the shoulders of a single man, however. James is lucky enough to be surrounded by two fellow All-Stars as well as a gaggle of players who are comfortable enough in their role to not upset the proverbial apple cart.

Right now, it's hard to envision anyone beating Miami four times in a seven-game series. Despite being Public Enemy No. 1 every time they stepped out onto the court this year, the Heat have still found a way to win 75 percent of their games this season.

A month ago, Miami was fresh off of a 102-89 loss to the Indiana Pacers, and with a 29-14 mark, it was fair to wonder if the Heat were dealing with some sort of a post-championship hangover. Thirteen wins and zero defeats later, the narrative is quite a bit different these days.

"We needed one of those stretches, and we had one of those stretches," James told Sean Deveney of Sporting News when asked about Miami's 12-1 February. "But we don't want it to end just because the month ended."

So far, so good on that front. And from the looks of it, the Heat might just be able to ride this wave all the way to another Larry O'Brien Trophy.