The Miami Heat have not quite lived up to expectations. Granted, those expectations were through the roof, but they still have struggled under the scrutiny.
The whole season, however, they have maintained that they were only concerned with the playoffs. You don't win championships in the regular season, right? So, the Heat didn't need to worry about that.
Now, they are in the playoffs, and their eyes are on the championship prize. They have jumped out to a 3-0 series lead on the Philadelphia 76ers, and they looked poised to advance to the second round.
But what have we learned about the Heat?
First, we have seen the role players step up. They know they don't have to score much, but they need to contribute for the Heat to win in the playoffs.
In Game 1, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Joel Anthony combined for 11 points and 10 rebounds. In Game 2, they had 11 and 12. Then, in Game 3, they had 14 points and 12 rebounds.
Many people have criticized the Heat's lack of a post presence. While these numbers are not incredible, they are a solid contribution from the center position.
The Big Three scores 60-75 points each game, and they grab 18-30 rebounds, so the center position does not need to do much more than combine for double-double.
They have managed a combined double-double each game, and the Heat have won each game. If they keep contributing like this, the Heat are going to be tough to beat.
This past summer, the Heat collected arguably the most talented Big Three in the last decade. I'm not saying they are the best, but they would have to be considered great individual talents.
That was their problem. They were individual talents.
Now, they are starting to look like a team.
At the start of the season, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were more effective when the other was off the court, Chris Bosh was criticized for being soft (is there any doubt that he was the one that cried in the locker room?), and the other players were non-existent.
Now, the Heat look like a team. They swarm on defense, and they force Philadelphia into tough shots. As a result, the 76ers haven't eclipsed 95 points, and their shooting percentage has been stuck in the low 40s.
Offense has looked easy for the Heat. Although they have only scored triple figures once, they have been able to put up points in a hurry, which has become their calling card.
Even in the series, the Big Three have evolved.
In Game 1, James and Wade missed a combined 17 shots.
In Game 2, Wade suffered from the side-effects of migraines and missed seven shots and turned the ball over five times.
In Game 3, Bosh and Wade missed a combined twenty shots; however, they still put together 51 points.
Although they have not been very efficient, the Big Three have been able to score, rebound, and defend. This has given the Heat a 3-0 lead over the 76ers, but what does that mean?
Therefore, although the Heat have been convincing in the 76ers series, they haven't won anything yet.
They set out to win championships, and this is an important step, but it isn't the only step. They are a much better seed, and they are doing what they are supposed to do.
Nevertheless, they need to win a few more series before they have any reason to get excited.