I was hopeful that the Miami Heat's season opener against the Boston Celtics would be a sign of things to come. That they would remain tentative and the pressure to be great right away would be too much for them to handle. But in the back of my mind, I knew it would take time for them to mesh, to find an identity and eventually get over the backlash from "The Decision." Sadly, at least for the rest of the league, it seems they've been able to figure those things out in about a week.
In their last four games the Heat have beaten each of their opponents by double-digits. And in the last three, they've been pummeling the competition by an average of 27 ppg, highlighted by a 96-70 smack-down over the Orlando Magic.
I think it's now safe to say that the Heat are for real. Here are five reason why:
1. The Hate Is Wearing Off
The Big Three are are doing everything they can to salvage their image. They're saying the right things, they're involved in carefully crafted media campaigns (Lebron and Wade's commercials) and they're playing at a high level. As the animosity diminishes, the Heat will be able to focus on winning games, instead of hearts.
2. A Pecking Order Is Beginning to Emerge
Will the three superstars find a way to mesh? That was the main question mark heading into the season. So far, the answer is yes.
Lebron has become the main ball-handler and facilitator, averaging a solid 7.2 assist per game. Wade is becoming the scorer, averaging 24.8 over the last for games. And Bosh is doing whatever else is needed on a given night for his team to win.
3. Stifling Defense
Even though their slow pace ranks them next to last in possessions per game, before Tuesday night's 129-97 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Heat ranked first in points allowed at 80.8. Wade is leading the way with 1.6 spg (Lebron has 1.4) and Joel Anthony is swatting 1.4 shots per game while playing only 20 minutes.
And anytime you can hold a team like the Orlando Magic to 70 points, you're definitely doing something right.
4. Lebron Is Better Than Ever
At the beginning of the season, I was sure the MVP would be awarded to either Kobe Bryant or Kevin Durant. After seeing the impact Lebron has had on the Heat over the first week, he might be holding the trophy for a third consecutive year.
Maybe it's the new offense, the lack of double-teams, or maybe he's just playing angry because of everything he's been through of late. But whatever it is, he's looking as sharp as ever.
5. Role Players Are Contributing
Mike Miller is out with an injured thumb, but the Heat have a couple sharpshooters that are fitting in great in his absence. Eddie House has hit on 63% of his three-point tries and James Jones has connected on 53% of his, making just under four per game.
Udonis Haslem is also being his usual bulldog self down low, averaging about nine rebounds in 23 mpg.
And against the Timberwolves, the Heat had six players in double figures. Not bad.
Maybe the Orlando game was just a fluke and maybe they haven't really faced stiff competition besides the Magic or the Celtics, but the Heat are only going to get better.
And that's a scary thought.