NBA Finals: How the Miami Heat Will Challenge the LA Lakers for the NBA Title

Buckus ToothnailContributor IIIMarch 7, 2011


The Miami Heat have been losing games, and losing badly.

Not by blow-outs necessarily other than that embarrassing 30 point loss to the San Antonio Spurs last week.

They've been losing badly because the losses have been close, usually with them leading at some point in the fourth quarter, only to see their lead and the game slip away by clutch play by their opponents.

Losing badly because they can't execute defense or offense late in the games.

Losing badly because they've been losing to teams they have no business losing to, like the New York Knicks or even the Orlando Magic.

Losing badly because the Heat have been crying after losing again to the Chicago Bulls, in the locker room, perhaps hiding it from one another by sobbing in the showers, and then huddling and cuddling together in tears in the dressing room like they just lost a child or parent.

The Heat have been losing badly and in a very bad way indeed.

So much so that most short-sighted NBA "fans" will now write off the Heat because they've lost four games in a row and five games out of six, just like how these same "fans" declared the Heat to be pre-ordained champions after they pulled off 20 out 21 games earlier this season.

But what these bandwagon, shortsighted fair-weather "fans" think is hardly of consequence.  What's important is the truth, and the truth is the Miami Heat's losses are signs the team is on their way to their second NBA Championship and their first since signing former Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James and Toronto Raptors standout Chris Bosh.

Now it might be difficult to grasp why a team like the Heat that seems to be on a downward spiral would somehow all of a sudden become the title favorites.

For most teams, suffering endless consecutive heart-breaking losses night in and night out would be their doom. 

Their confidence, whatever was left of it, would die a quick death and the players would simply give up, throw in the towel, and call their travel agent to book their early summer vacation, where they can escape the reality of being a "loser" and drown their "miseries" in the tens of millions of dollars that they earn each year and the fantasy summer holidays their salaries can buy.

But the Miami Heat are different.

People forget this team is lead by Dwyane Wade, the same magician and "anti-quitter" that played his heart out in Game 3 of the 2006 NBA Finals, single-handedly bringing his team back from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter and down 0-2 in the series against the Dallas Mavericks and their league MVP that year, Dirk Nowitzki, to win the game and then sweep the rest of the Finals for the Heat's first NBA Championship.

People forget what a warrior lion LeBron James is, being able to single-handedly defeat the all-mighty Detroit Pistons in the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals, taking his massively over-achieving team of scrubs plus one superstar to the NBA Finals.

People just like to point out the Cavaliers' disastrous melt-down against the Boston Celtics last year in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, without giving due credit to exactly how good the Celtics team were last year, and without considering how much the burden and psychological toll the rumors around that time concerning LeBron and his inner circle would affect the play of any NBA superstar, not just someone as young and impressionable as James.

But the fact is the Heat are different, and like how they rebounded from their embarrassing 9-8 start to the season by winning 20 of their next 21 games, it would be foolish to not expect them to also rebound from their latest slump.

Though the Miami Heat have a tough schedule for the next two weeks, their games for the remaining four weeks afterwards is relatively easy against the Detroit Pistons, Philadelphia 76ers, Houston Rockets, Cavaliers, Washington Wizards, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Jersey Nets, Milwaukee Bucks, Charlotte Bobcats, Atlanta Hawks and the Toronto Raptors, with only the Celtics being an elite team amongst the remaining opponents, giving them an opportunity to finish the regular season strongly with momentum going into the postseason.

The Bulls, on the other hand, have a relatively easy schedule for the first few weeks of the rest of the season, and then hit a tough stretch of games in the final week, when they have to play the Celtics, the Magic and the Knicks.

It's not inconceivable that the Bulls could lose all three, with the loss to the Knicks the most devastating as New York is the most likely first round opponent for the Bulls, and who are capable of pulling off a major humongous upset now that they have former Denver Nuggets superstar Carmelo Anthony in their line-up.

Even if they do manage to scrape by a Game 7 victory against the Knicks, the Bulls will have been so badly beaten up in that series with probably a major injury to their often injured big men, Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer, that they will not be at full-strength and a second round loss to the Heat seems very likely.

In the Eastern Conference Finals, the Heat will face their most challenging opponent of all, the Celtics.

Though not quite "rivals" yet as this is LeBron's first year on the Heat, and when the Heat won the championship in 2006, the Celtics were a lottery team that couldn't even make the playoffs in the East.  And when the Celtics won their title in 2008, the Heat had lost Wade for 31 games to injury on top of trading away Shaquille O'Neal.

But this season is when both teams are among the elite of the league and their war in the Eastern Conference Finals should be one for all-time. 

But while many are quick to dismiss the Heat against the tried and true Celtics, with their recent loss of Kendrick Perkins and against the athleticism and hunger of the Heat's trio of superstars, like in their loss last year against the Los Angeles Lakers also without Perkins, the Celtics will perish due to a lack of strong rebounding and their inability to stop the combined attack of Wade with James.

The NBA Finals should be an interesting match-up, whether it will be against the Lakers or the Spurs.  While the Lakers would be the easier match-up for the Heat, having already humiliated them at Staples Center during the Christmas 2010 game, the Heat would suffer a few losses in the Finals against the Spurs, but should be able to pull out a Game 7 victory.

That's because the Spurs will have peaked too early and when it doesn't count, that is in the regular season.

While they are playing inspired ball right now, their early playoffs match-ups against the Memphis Grizzlies and the Oklahoma City Thunder will wear them down, especially their second round series against Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Kendrick Perkins & Co.

That's a series that they can very possibly lose, with the ultra-athletic duo of Durant and Westbrook giving the geriatric Spurs the fits, while Perkins will dominate the middle in both offensive and defensive rebounding against any of the Spurs big men.

People forget that Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Tim Duncan are all injury-prone in their advanced age, and having to bang against the likes of Perkins or guard the ankle-breaking Durant will likely result in one of them suffering a season-ending injury.

And the Spurs have no chance against the Heat in the NBA Finals unless they are at 100% strength, even with home-court advantage.

With the Heat's recent trials and tribulations, many short-sighted bandwagon pundits will write the team off, not having the foresight and experience witnessing the league to understand the nuances of regular season play and how favorites rarely ever win it all. 

And the Heat are not favorites by any stretch of the imagination; rather, they are the team of the underdog, the bullied, the despised, the wretched, the ugly and the hungry, and more often than not, it's these teams that win it all.

 *   *   *

In understanding how he was distracted rather than quitting in last season's playoffs, "LeBron James: Should 'The Decision' Be Forgiven If Delonte West Rumor Is True?"

Rather, "Is Kobe, Not LeBron, The Biggest Quitter in The NBA?"

Despite some recent impressive wins, these are the "Top 5 Obstacles Standing in the Way of the Los Angeles Lakers and Another NBA Championship".

Speaking of Russians in New Jersey, "Strikeforce Grand Prix Fix: Was Fedor Emelianenko Robbed?"


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