INDIANAPOLIS — At first, Chris Bosh insisted that he felt no particular emotion after hitting his first couple of shots on Monday night. But then he relented, admitting that something did come over him as the ball kept going over the front rim and out the bottom of the basket.
"If you see one go in, you want two, and then you want three," Bosh said, after helping to put the Miami Heat ahead of the Indiana Pacers, three games to one in the Eastern Conference Finals. "So I guess greed, a little bit greedy."
Greed, for these Heat, is good.
Greed is what should drive them Wednesday night in Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
They've seen one Eastern Conference Finals opponent, the Chicago Bulls, go down to them, in 2011.
They wanted two, and so they got it, vanquishing the stubborn Boston Celtics in 2012.
They wanted three, and while it took seven games, they took the Pacers out in 2013.
And now, they can make it four straight NBA Finals appearances by pushing aside the Pacers again—with greater ease than last spring, with several days of rest as a reward and with an underrated historical achievement at stake.
While the Heat would likely downplay the capturing of yet another Eastern Conference crown, since they would still be a series short of their stated goal, simply advancing to the NBA Finals should warrant an abundance of appreciation from the rest of us.
Since 1987, three different teams (the 1991-93 Chicago Bulls, 1996-98 Chicago Bulls and 2000-02 Los Angeles Lakers) have won three straight championships.
No team during that period has appeared in four straight NBA Finals.
The team of this era, the San Antonio Spurs—who haven't posted a winning percentage below .610 in 17 seasons while winning the West five times—haven't even made two straight at any point.
How long has it been since a team reached four straight, in either conference?
It was six years before the Pacers' current president played for The Dream Team.
Larry Bird's Boston Celtics represented the East from 1984 through 1987.
They would have dominated that decade if not for the Los Angeles Lakers, who bore the West banner nine times in a 12-year period. That included four straight from 1982 through 1985, when their coach was Pat Riley, the Heat's current president.
Only one other team has appeared in four or more consecutive NBA Finals, and that was also the Celtics, though of a much earlier era—from 1957 to 1966.
That was a time, though, when the NBA had only nine total teams, not 30, and when it was necessary to win only two series (and a total of seven games) to advance to the title round. Now there are 15 teams in each conference, and three series and 12 victories are required to serve as their Finals representative.
Is this Heat team as good as the Celtics of Bill Russell, John Havlicek and the Joneses (Sam and K.C.)?
Has the East been down during the Heat's reign?
Sure. The Celtics got old, the Bulls got hurt and the Pacers can't get it together.
Still, the 27-year drought speaks to the difficulty of putting four conference runs together. The 1990 Lakers couldn't do it, as the Phoenix Suns smoked Riley's squad in the second round.
The 1991 Detroit Pistons couldn't do it (LeBron James took note of this as he watched ESPN's 30 for 30: Bad Boys documentary, heard them complaining about wear and tear, and turned to his wife, "Who does that sound like?").
The 2003 Lakers of Kobe and Shaq couldn't do it. The 2011 Lakers of Kobe and Pau couldn't do it, as the Heat know well, since the Dallas Mavericks ultimately eliminated Miami in the Finals after sweeping Los Angeles.
And, of course, the 1994 Bulls and 1999 Bulls couldn't do it either, but that was due to the absence of His Airness, with Michael Jordan retiring for the first and second of three times.
But here are the Heat.
They can do it.
They can do it tonight.
They can do it while enduring more scrutiny than any NBA team ever has. They can do it despite the fact that, in each of the previous three postseasons, they had to overcome important injuries with Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller limited in 2011, Chris Bosh missing nine games due to an abdominal tear in 2012 and Dwyane Wade hobbling to the finish in 2013.
They can do it in a salary cap and luxury tax era, which has chipped away at their depth, with 13 different players making starts in the past four postseasons, and with none of this season's additions—Toney Douglas, Michael Beasley, Greg Oden—contributing a meaningful postseason minute so far.
And if they do it, we shouldn't look past it.
Last June, after winning the third championship of his career, and second in succession, Wade was asked about what it would be like to win a third straight championship.
"Magic's never done it, right?" Wade said.
Never did. Neither did Bird.
"That's Magic Johnson," Wade said. "He's got five rings, he's never won three in a row. That shows how tough it is. But we're going to throw our hat in the ring and see what we come out with. We're going to be back next year, hungry again to try to continue to place ourselves in history. Winning back-to-backs is special. Winning back-to-back-to-backs would be out of this world. That's going to be our goal: How do we come back and muster up enough to keep us focused, keep us hungry throughout the season to get ourselves back in the position to win another championship?"
Winning tonight would show that they had mustered enough.
That they'd been greedy enough.
No, merely reaching back-to-back-to-back-to-back NBA Finals certainly wouldn't satiate them.
But, as appetizers go, there wouldn't be many tastier.
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