Entering the 2010-2011 season, the consensus Finals pick for the west were the Lakers, and the consensus "noisy" team for the east were the Heat. Here, we take a look at their almost divergent seasons—so far.
The Heat entered the season with high expectations and a certain air of pompousness and pride—feeling almost invincible. Yet they were quickly brought down to earth with their season starting off with an eight-point loss, at one point possessing just a 9-8 record coming off a three-game losing streak.
The media were getting on the "SuperFriends" cases, Heat fans everywhere were panicking and everyone else was smugly smiling at the "hot" mess...before Lebron, Wade and co. exploded and proceeded to win 21 of their next 22 games. Save for a hiccup against an equally red hot Dallas Mavericks team, the Miami Heat had a perfect December, 15-1.
On the flip side of that equation, we look towards the West Coast, to the back-to-back defending champions: the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers also entered this season with some pride, perhaps even cockiness, after winning the title.
They started the season 13-2 before running into some trouble and having their first four-game losing streak. Yet all the attention was still on Miami, and as a result, this warning sign was overlooked.
The Lakers appeared like they were doing fine, but were actually being buoyed by a career month for Pau Gasol and one of the easier schedules in the league. Once Pau began to tire, the Lakers began to crumble and struggle with inferior teams—finishing with a 10-5 December.
Things to watch out for
Heat: The Heat's recent run is certainly impressive, but it can directly be attributed to the elevated play of their superstars...namely Dwayne Wade. Nine of their past 21 victories were by single digits, and they've had to battle into overtime on several occasions.
Yet the Heat have been able to utilize their raw star power and almost will themselves to victory, piggybacking on either LeBron or Wade and generally playing solid defense. Whether the Heat's hot streak is merely fool's gold or a sign of things to come, only time will tell. The return of sharpshooter Mike Miller certainly won't hurt.
Lakers: Despite their recent skid, the Lakers seem to have righted the ship, winning six of their last seven, and getting Andrew Bynum back. Although their depth took a hit with Matt Barnes' knee injury, Lakers fans can take solace that this will most likely mean more minutes for a certain KB24, who has hovered around the 33-minute mark all year.
Whether that will translate into more wins and great playoff production, or same amount of wins and tired legs for the postseason, only time will tell.