Some dynasties make it look easy. The Miami Heat let you see them sweat.
Erik Spoelstra’s Heat have won the last two NBA titles by margins so thin you’d need a telescope and some patience to see them.
In 2012, Miami needed a W in the Boston Garden and a pair of world-historic performances from LeBron James to avoid a stunning defeat in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Just last spring, the Heat won their second title in as many seasons only after squeezing by the Indiana Pacers in seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals and coming back from a three-games-to-two deficit—and a 13-point disadvantage in Game 6—to eke by the San Antonio Spurs.
With the difference between victory and defeat so small—and consequential—there’s a veritable panoply of factors that could tip the scales toward or away from the twice-defending champs. From Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, to defense and the sleeping giant in the Hoosier State, here’s a look at five particularly important areas to keep an eye on.