NBA Mid-Season Report: Are the Miami Heat Still the Team to Beat?

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NBA Mid-Season Report: Are the Miami Heat Still the Team to Beat?
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In the last week of games for the Miami Heat, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have all been listed on an injury report. Both James and Bosh have actually missed games.

The result: Miami has lost their last four games.

The Heat responded to a mediocre start this season by winning 21 of their next 22 games; however, this last week has not been too kind to Miami.

After a tough loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, the Heat struggled without James, losing to the Denver Nuggets and Chicago Bulls. On Tuesday, Miami fell in overtime to the Atlanta Hawks in one of their worst offensive efforts of the season.

This begs the question: Is this Heat team still the team to beat?

Apparently, Phil Jackson doesn't think so.

Jackson commented this week that he does not see the Heat getting by the Boston Celtics. Seems like tough criticism from the coach of the team that the Heat beat by 16 points on Christmas Day.

Still, Jackson does have a point with the Heat struggling. The Heat can point to several reasons for their recent troubles. Obviously, injuries have played a major role in the losses. Without LeBron, the Heat are a completely different team. Even without Bosh, Miami severely lacks depth and talent in the front court.

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The recent losing streak has highlighted the fact that this Heat team does not have much talented depth outside of Wade, James and Bosh. There is absolutely no offense from the center position and point guards Carlos Arroyo and Mario Chalmers have been inconsistent.

Right now, it would be difficult to proclaim the Heat as the team to beat; the Celtics lead them by three games. Miami still hasn't beaten either the Celtics or the Dallas Mavericks, despite four opportunities. Of course, there is also the San Antonio Spurs, who are on pace for a 70-win season.

Still, the Heat have the advantage of time on their side. Mike Miller has still not returned to full strength and his niche on the team has not yet been carved. Udonis Haslem could return by the postseason, giving the Heat another talented player in a shallow frontcourt.

The Heat will get back on the right track. The question is what version of the Heat will we see in the second half of the season? Will it be the medicore 9-8 team? Will it be the team that won 21 of 22 games? Or will it be somewhere in the middle?

Only time will tell.

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