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NBA Playoff Chase: Heat Drop Below the Celtics, and Time for the Lakers Runs Out

Joye Pruitt@hoopselectSenior Analyst IApril 7, 2011

MIAMI, FL - APRIL 06:  John Salmons #15 of the Milwaukee Bucks posts up Mike Bibby #0 of the Miami Heat during a game at American Airlines Arena on April 6, 2011 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The Miami Heat compilation that wowed everyone last summer has not been turning the same heads this season, at least not for the suspected reasons. Injuries and inconsistency have hopped on the backs of the South Beach heroes and contributed heavily to the decline in support that Miami has received from the rest of the world.

Last night, the Miami Heat faced Brandon Jennings and the Milwaukee Bucks. The team with probably one of the easiest schedules left in the regular season was expected to push past its opponents, while LeBron James achieved his seventh 2,000-point season.

Becoming one of very few to add this accolade to his career, James may have won the battle but lost the war as Milwaukee pushed past Miami after taking a huge early lead over the team without its leading man, Dwyane Wade.

Wade had to watch helplessly on the sidelines next to longtime teammate Udonis Haslem, as Miami could not close against a non-playoff contender. The loss puts Miami under Boston as the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference.

If they hold this position for the remainder of the season, the Heat will face the New York Knicks in the first round. In their last meeting, Carmelo Anthony took on the challenge of guarding LeBron James and the Knicks were on the winning end after a blocked shot from Amar'e Stoudemire in the last moments.

Elsewhere in the basketball world, the Los Angeles Lakers faced the Golden State Warriors in a game that would further them in the race for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. With Kobe being such a clutch player, it was expected that he would step up to the plate and knock the dust off of the win column that the Lakers have so effortlessly put together since the All-Star Break.

That, of course, did not happen.

The Golden State Warriors came out of the locker room with the fan support and Mr. three–point shooter himself, Dorell Wright. He broke the single-season record for the franchise with a dagger outside the line, adding to the Warriors' already double-digit lead, and afterwards his game picked up momentum.

Los Angeles battled back with a few shots from Kobe and Andrew Bynum’s revamped paint performance, but the combined efforts of David Lee, Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry were too much to overcome.

The loss ended the Lakers' hopes of becoming the No. 1 seed in the West. But regardless of where the team has to play, many believe they are still the most dangerous team to contend against in the postseason. There could be a number of reasons for the three-game losing streak that the Lakers have put up since starting the post-All-Star season 17-1. The lack of focus and the knowledge of how irrelevant these last few games to be played are could be major factors.

We are heading into the most important time of the NBA season, where All-Star Game MVP and regular-season MVP are just consolation prizes compared to the true hardware. Keep your eyes on the prize. 

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