5 Reasons Why the Miami Heat Are a Dynasty
This might not be the most appropriate time to be writing such an article, but I'm one to take on a challenge.
Plus, we've been here before. The Miami Heat have been down in several series in the past few years.
They were down 1-0 in the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals against Chicago, 2-1 against Indiana in the 2012 semifinals, 3-2 against Boston in the Eastern Conference Finals, 1-0 against Oklahoma City in the NBA Finals and 1-0 against Chicago, again, in the 2013 semifinals.
To declare the Heat down and out after their Game 5 loss to a San Antonio Spurs team that has been unconscious from a shooting standpoint over the past four games would be clear evidence that you have not paid much attention to this team over the past three years. In fact, they've been in this position just as many times as they've been in favorable situations when they controlled a series wire-to-wire.
But that's what makes the Heat a dynasty. In the three years the "Big Three" have been together, they have rewritten the history books and even changed the way the game is played.
With so much talent and so many roles that could possibly conflict, the Heat have employed a small lineup that is taking the NBA by storm. These rotations have reduced the roles of big men everywhere and have made the 7-footer seemingly a thing of the past, with the exception of those that have an offensive repertoire.
Even then, Miami is killing teams with lineups that have sometimes featured LeBron James as a center.
The revolutionary rotations and lineups the Heat have been running over the past two seasons, along with the MVPs, All-Star nominations and incredible postseason and regular-season performances, have all made this Heat team has become a dynasty.
27 Wins in a Row
In the middle of this sustained dominance, the Miami Heat went on a run that had only been seen in the NBA once before.
The Heat's 27-game win streak should be recognized as one of the greatest achievements by an American professional sports team. It's the second-longest winning streak in NBA history, coming up only seven games short of the legendary 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers record of 33 straight.
It's the longest streak since the Houston Rockets improbably won 22 in a row in 2008. Miami is one of five teams to win 20 consecutive games, and it's only the second team to do so within the past four decades.
After falling to the Indiana Pacers February 1, the Heat would not lose another game until March 27. The streak spanned All-Star weekend and was sustained during a four-game road trip that included visits to Oklahoma City, Atlanta and Chicago, as well as a five-game trip that featured contests in Milwaukee and Boston.
Miami kept it interesting. It had the occasional blowouts, such as an 86-67 road win over Chicago and a 111-89 win over the Los Angeles Clippers, but it was the edge-of-your-seat victories that came with seemingly every game that drew the most attention to Miami's incredible stretch of games.
But no game was more impressive than a March 20 win on the road against a Cleveland Cavaliers team that was playing without Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters. A game that was thought to be a blowout going in turned into just that, except the roles were reversed and it was Cleveland holding a 27-point lead in the third quarter.
After securing a 67-40 lead, the Heat would go on a run that featured a 33-point swing between the 7:44 mark of the third and the 6:58 mark of the fourth.
The Heat deserved a medal for the service they performed for the NBA by instilling some excitement in the tail end of the regular season, which usually drags on for seemingly 20 games too long.
But the least we can do is recognize the pedestal they have risen to for such sustained excellence over the course of a month-and-a-half.
Embraced the Pressure
The Heat were supposedly failures because they were a .500 team after 17 games in 2010-11.
A few months later, and the Heat were on a five-game losing streak in March, only a few weeks before the start of the postseason. Miami just blew a few games off of intolerable late-game execution and the Heat were allegedly crying, so out come the narratives of failure!
Narratives for LeBron's failed decision. Narratives for Chris Bosh's passive game. Narratives for Dwyane Wade giving up the spotlight. Everybody gets a narrative. Even as the Heat did all they could to shut themselves out from the outside world, they constantly found themselves at the center of a new controversy.
Then the Heat won 58 games to end the season with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference. Even that wasn't enough, because the big and strong Chicago Bulls and the veteran savvy of the Boston Celtics would be far too much for the Heat.
Then Miami needed 10 games to dispose of those strong, veteran-laden teams. Unfortunately, it couldn't overcome the impenetrable zone defense of the Dallas Mavericks.
It would take another year before the Heat would redeem themselves with a five-game series win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. But not before Miami were supposedly going to lose a series they were down 2-1 in against Indiana, a 3-2 series against Boston, and a 1-0 series against Oklahoma City.
Once again, the Heat are facing that pressure we've talked about so much, now facing a 3-2 deficit in the NBA Finals. That same pressure the Heat supposedly couldn't overcome against Boston. The same pressure against Chicago. Against Indiana. Against Oklahoma City. You get the point.
Miami has been the centerpiece of the NBA for the past three years. Even with the world watching, the constant speculation, the criticism and the cacophony of noise, the Heat have responded with three consecutive NBA Finals, the building of LeBron's legacy and the possibility of two championships in two years as soon as the end of this week.
Not bad for a team that should have been disbanded after every playoff loss.
A Trio Like Nothing We've Seen Before
As many times as they've been broken up, dissected and criticized, the Miami Heat's Big Three has been as effective as so many expected them to be when originally brought together.
Perhaps we were a little too hasty when assuming this team would be dominant to the point where they would never lose.
We found out that teammates outside of those three are a big part of a team, a proper cohesion is necessary, players who have similar styles are going to need time to adjust to each other's games and throwing three great players together isn't as easy as it seems.
It's not as easy as it looks. The Miami Heat have just made it look easy.
Because even with pieces that obviously don't fit, two perimeter players that possess mirror images of each other's game and a power forward that's been set up with the responsibility as the lone big threat, the Heat have made the adjustments and set their egos aside to coexist and make three consecutive NBA championship series.
And in the middle of that, the "Big Three" have had some fun. LeBron and Dwyane combined for over 50 points per game in their first season together, and then LeBron James turned the Heat into a supercharged version of the Cleveland Cavaliers where Wade and Bosh took on the roles of the vastly inferior Mo Williams and Antawn Jamison.
The result was two league MVPs for LeBron, including finishing with the third-highest PER in NBA history this past season.
James and Wade began to coexist, with no greater example than their Game 4 against the Pacers in the 2011 semifinals, and it resulted in some of the most pristine and immaculate basketball between two players, let alone two players who are both perimeter players that have had difficulty consistently making jumpers.
It wouldn't be fair to say, "But the Heat promised this and they should have won that." If you base your expectations on what the adrenaline-fueled "Big Three" were boasting at a party that was made specifically for Heat fans, then you're going to be sorely disappointed.
As great as the "Big Three" have been, they have also been labeled as failures just as much as they have been labeled winners. So just how lofty are those expectations?
If the past three seasons have proven anything, it's that one should never judge the Miami Heat by their regular-season performances.
They are a deceiving team, and it makes them impossible to evaluate. All we are aware of is that this team plays certain regular-season games as if they were practices, but it will turn on the pressure in games of significance.
Those games of significance, fortunately for Miami, come in the postseason.
Despite constant chatter about how the Heat's regular-season performances are somehow indicative of bad habits and trends that would prolong into the postseason, Miami has answered the call time and time again.
Just look back at the past three years of Heat dominance and think of all the memorable stretches they've put together. Mike Miller's Game 5 against Oklahoma City, LeBron's 45-15-5 in a crucial Game 6, Miami's 18-3 run against Chicago to close out the ECF, Dwyane Wade's 41 points in a closeout of Indiana in 2011.
Do I need to go on?
It's only been three years and the Heat have had more moments to remember in the playoffs than most NBA franchises could recall in histories that span decades. They are a team that truly entertains its spectators, and they are a team that knows how to get the job done when its back is against the wall.
Miami has made it to three consecutive finals with .700 regular-season records—more than what many thought the Heat would accomplish after first seeing them play together.
The most recent teams to make three consecutive finals? The Los Angeles Lakers in 2008, '09 and '10; the Lakers in '00, '01 and '02; and the Chicago Bulls in '96, '97 and '98.
All three could be considered dynasties, especially those turn-of-the-millennium Laker teams and those Bulls teams from the '90s.
Like those two squads, the Heat have showcased dominance to a point of questioning just how they can be defeated and have earned so much praise from opposing coaches you would assume they were looking for a job next season.
Things look grim against San Antonio, but the same could easily be said for the Spurs after their Game 4 loss. Miami has been down 3-2 twice, and the most recent occurrence resulted in LeBron James having the greatest game of his NBA career.
Perhaps then we could begin speaking of dynasties? Because those past three teams that made it to three consecutive finals featured each team winning at least two titles.
As bad as the Miami Heat have looked for stretches, they're only two home wins away from being NBA champions.
But they've also looked bad. Really bad. Bad to the point of receiving their worst beating in the "Big Three" era. Bad to the point where the San Antonio Spurs have turned into the team where you question, "How do you stop this monstrous offensive juggernaut?"
However, the Heat have also looked incredible.
The stretch they had in Game 2 that turned a nail-biter into a laugher in the span of 10 minutes was scary. The 43-minute stretch of dominance they put together in Game 4 was downright frightening. They looked like the team that won 27 consecutive games and 66 regular-season games only a few months prior.
That's why this series isn't over. There's no reason why we should be declaring the Heat down for the count.
Does something give? Do the Spurs begin missing their shots? They've sustained shooting percentages that aren't supposed to be sustainable for the past four games, five if you want to include that miracle of a shot Tony Parker made in Game 1.
The future looks bleak for Miami, but I feel like we've been told this story before.