Miami Heat Index: Tom Haberstroh
LeBron opened up the game with a thunderous alley-oop slam for the first two points of the game. Aaaaand that was pretty much it. Plagued by rare foul trouble, LeBron could only chomp on his fingernails and cheer on his teammates from the bench. He passed it to Chris Bosh for the corner 3-pointer for the win, but Bosh came up empty.
With LeBron hampered with foul trouble early, Wade buoyed the second unit and led the Heat's rally following a slow start. But he ran into some foul trouble of his own and couldn't get into his shooting rhythm until he nailed two 3s late. This had the makings of a big night from Wade, but he struggled to carry the load and routinely coughed up the ball.
They call him Big Shot Bosh in Miami, but he missed the potential go-ahead corner 3 in the final seconds. After a breakout Game 4, Bosh didn't pop from the start. He experienced some rare Bosh time in the second quarter with LeBron and Wade hitting foul trouble. He was aggressive with his shot, but the results weren't there. He needs to be more aggressive off the dribble to get to the charity stripe.
Rashard Lewis lives for the Eastern Conference finals. Remember, he helped push the 2009 Orlando Magic into the Finals by shooting lights-out from downtown. He did it again in Game 5 with six trifectas as the short-handed Heat were desperate for scoring. Unfortunately for the Heat, six 3s weren't enough.
The Paul George Game. The Pacers made a point to get Roy Hibbert touches early on, but it was George who got all the love down the stretch and made the most of it. In the first half, the Pacers couldn't score in an open gym, but George turned into a modern-day Tracy McGrady after halftime, scoring 31 points and rescuing the Pacers. George was home cooking. Game 6 in Miami.
If Lance Stephenson was in LeBron's head, the Pacer got the eviction notice within the first few seconds of Game 4. Rather than ease into the game as usual, James was hyperactive from the start and stomped on the Pacers' throats early. When LeBron plays with that much force, it's curtains. You'll be seeing the 360 and-1 dunk a lot on Tuesday.
Dwyane Wade wasn't his sharpest in Game 4, but he'll happily take a back seat to LeBron and Chris Bosh on offense if it means he can help silence Stephenson. With Wade splitting time with Norris Cole on him, Stephenson didn't make a basket from the floor until late in the fourth quarter. Wade put Paul George on ice skates a couple times at the end, but this was the Bosh and LeBron show.
Well, the monkey is off his back. Bosh swished his first jumper in the game, which, for a guy who missed his opening shot in 10 of 12 games this postseason, is kind of a big deal. Bosh caught fire from there, hitting his next two 3-pointers and sparking the Heat's full-blown attack. Bosh cooled off in the second half, but the damage was already done.
Must be nice to start next to three future Hall of Famers. Rashard Lewis got the call with Chris Andersen (thigh contusion) out and Udonis Haslem moving to the bench. Like in Game 3, Lewis didn't score, but the Heat crushed the Pacers with him on the court once again. Over the past two games, Lewis is now plus-35 with zero points of his own. Crazy.
Too little, too late. Once again, the Pacers had trouble making simple, fundamental basketball plays. After Stephenson said that James engaging in trash-talk was a sign of weakness, the Pacers looked weaker than a wet paper towel. Indiana isn't deep enough to compete while Roy Hibbert and Stephenson take the night off. It's panic time in PacerLand.
LeBron had a big hand in the Heat's slow start after they faced a 17-4 early deficit. He had a bigger hand in the turnaround. LeBron woke up in the second quarter and propelled Miami's comeback alongside Dwyane Wade and looked no worse for the wear after a fourth-quarter visit to the locker room for an apparent leg injury. Stay tuned.
After stomping the Pacers in the final minutes of Game 2, Wade couldn't do anything right to start Game 3. At one point, after a series of boneheaded plays, Wade stared at his hands presumably to make sure they were still attached. But he absolutely took over early in the fourth quarter. It seems he never makes a shot without kissing it off the glass first.
Bosh's cold streak continued as he missed his first three jumpers of the game, picked up four quick fouls and got put through a blender by Luis Scola. Bosh talked pregame about maintaining his confidence and he needed every bit of it on Saturday. The first three quarters were a nightmare, but he held his own against Roy Hibbert late.
You might want to guard this guy. And not with David West. Allen put on a masterpiece in the fourth quarter as West frantically tried to stay with him when the Heat went small. Allen hit four 3-pointers in the fourth quarter alone and put the dagger in the Pacers, who were left grasping for air. A reminder that Allen made his NBA debut in 1996 when Paul George was in first grade.
The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde show apparently made a stop at 601 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami, Florida. The Pacers looked like they were going to run away with Game 3 and take a 2-1 lead in the series, but then pretty much forgot how to play basketball. Indiana was running on fumes at the end and couldn't take advantage of the size advantage down the stretch. What a bizarre game.
A bizarre performance. After a shaky Game 1, LeBron James got off to a sleepy start, taking several possessions off defensively in the first quarter and refusing to put pressure on Roy Hibbert at the rim. At times, he needed to be hidden defensively on George Hill and C.J. Watson. But he stomped all over the Pacers in the fourth quarter and it was all over.
With James late to the party, Dwyane Wade took the steering wheel offensively and paced the Heat's offense with aggressive basket attacks and crafty floaters. Wade disappeared for about two quarters, but came back alive in the fourth quarter and led the charge with James to take Game 2. The fourth quarter was James and Wade at their best.
The struggle continues. After missing all five of his 3-pointers in Game 1, he hit rock-bottom by hitting the side of the backboard on a right corner jumper in the second quarter. For a guy who is usually automatic with his jumper, it's startling to see how off he is these days. He played much better defensively in this one, but he's searching offensively.
The Heat needed someone outside the Big Three to step up and Cole answered the call. After registering three straight scoreless games, Cole splashed corner 3-pointers and even guarded Lance Stephenson for a stretch so Wade and James could catch a breather. This was easily Cole's best outing in months and he deserved to close this one out.
For a while it looked like it was Lance Stephenson's world and we were all just living in it. The mercurial shooting guard pummeled the Heat in the third quarter whether it was acrobatic and-ones at the rim or pull-up 3-pointers from the parking lot. But the Heat defense swarmed them in the fourth quarter and they couldn't stop the James and Wade show. Check back for updates on Roy Hibbert and Stephenson, who both came up limping at the end of the game.
Erik Spoelstra made the interesting adjustment to put LeBron on David West from the start to preserve Shane Battier, but it didn't work out in the Heat's favor. James was up for the challenge and didn't look worse for the wear on the offensive end, but his focus on the defensive end wasn't nearly as acute as it needed to be. Not his best.
After Lance Stephenson told reporters that he wanted to make Wade run so his knee would "flare up," Wade went to work and came out strong just like he did in Game 5 against Brooklyn. After a quiet third quarter, Wade came back alive in the fourth quarter, but by then it was too late. He and James would be better served by attacking the rim more in Game 2.
A brutal game for Bosh. Starting at the 5 against Roy Hibbert, Bosh came out shooting blanks from downtown. The series hinges on his ability to take advantage of the spacing, but he came up empty in this one. Defensively, he wasn't any better. The passing was helpful, but that's not where the Heat need him to excel.
This was Chalmers at his worst: inefficient and displaying untimely immaturity. He lost his cool in the fourth quarter when he pushed an airborne C.J. Watson out of bounds on a fast-break layup and into the media table. That's about as dangerous as it gets. Chalmers was obviously taking out his frustration after going cold from the floor. He may be hearing from the league office.
The Pacers put the Heat defense through the shredder. My goodness. The Pacers moved the ball quickly and routinely caught the Heat napping on the defensive end. Hibbert dominated the Heat front line once again as he took five more free throws in this game than he did in the entire Atlanta series. Just complete domination from the home team.
Huge defense on Joe Johnson late. After dropping 49 points and pounding the rim on Monday, James didn't see any daylight in this one as the Brooklyn Nets packed the paint and made him give the ball up to teammates. Call it the San Antonio special. James finally broke through the Nets' web, but almost gave it away when he missed one of two free throws late. But his defense on Johnson sealed it.
Wade bolted out of the gate in attack mode with 20 points in the first half and sputtered late. He slithered his way into the paint, used glass liberally and sought contact, which is a good sign for his game going forward. But he allocated most of his energy for the scoring column and he was running on fumes late. His defensive effort is bordering on James Harden level.
Chris Bosh, like the rest of the Heat players, started out in a funk and struggled to find his shooting touch. He splashed a corner 3-pointer early in the third quarter to end the Heat's 1-for-16 drought from deep and kept pouring it on from long range. He didn't pick up his first rebound until 2:07 left, but he pulled down the clincher with 22 seconds left.
Jesus Shuttlesworth rises again. With 32 seconds left and the Heat down one, Mario Chalmers dished it out to Allen on the wing and the 38-year-old stuck the go-ahead 3-pointer. Not what Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett envisioned, huh? If that dagger wasn't enough, Allen sunk two free throws with 21.6 seconds while Pierce and Garnett watched from the bench. The scene dripped in symbolism.
For most of the game, the Nets' highest-paid player was money in the Nets' elimination game. Johnson hit incredibly tough shots that sucked the air out of the AmericanAirlines Arena, but he couldn't break free from James' blanket on the final look. After an up-and-down season from Brooklyn, the question remains: Was this the last game that Pierce and Garnett played together?
After a strong Game 1, James didn't seem to wake up until late in the second quarter, even though he was jawing with Paul Pierce throughout the game. He took over just before halftime, making four straight buckets to bring the Heat within one. This was an uneven James performance, but his 3-pointer from the right wing provided the dagger.
In Game 1, the Heat carved out a big lead in the second quarter with Wade anchoring the second unit, but Wade waited until the start of the fourth quarter to get his work done. After scoring just six points in the first three quarters, Wade dominated early in the fourth quarter and the Heat never looked back. A solid all-around game for Wade.
While James and Wade eased their way into the game, Bosh came out firing up 3-pointers and swatting Nets layups like they were Everglades mosquitos. He has played the best all-around ball of the Heat's star trio in this series and they don't win this game without him buoying the team in the first half. His block of Deron Williams at the rim on the Nets' final possession was a fitting end to the game.
Step aside, Paul Pierce. Teletovic is this generation's rival for LeBron James. Teletovic lit up the Heat in the regular season and went back to work in Game 2. The 6-foot-9 Teletovic played center for long stretches and made it difficult for the Heat's big men to both protect the paint and cut out his airspace. Teletovic took advantaged and rained from downtown, hitting 6-of-9 from deep.
Well, Teletovic can only do so much. Williams and Kevin Garnett laid enough bricks in this one to build a house. Garnett especially looked like he was running on empty the entire game and Jason Kidd had no choice but to remove him down the stretch. The Nets had nothing left. You just can't allow a Heat possession to last 1:40 in crunchtime and expect to come out alive.
MIAMI -- Doubt spares nobody. Not even a two-time NBA champion, former NCAA tournament champion, former NCAA Player of the Year, former Academic All-American of the Year and recipient of a seven-figure salary.
The doubt took hold of Shane Battier last month when he fell out of Erik Spoelstra’s rotation and barely played in the month of April. Doubt whether he, at 35, can still play in this league.
“Me? Oh, yeah,” Battier said from his locker after the Miami Heat’s 107-86 victory over the Brooklyn Nets in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series. “You never know.”
Battier was reinserted into the Heat’s starting lineup after playing a total of 2 minutes, 4 seconds in the first round against the Charlotte Bobcats. Battier won a championship as a Duke Blue Devil down the road in Durham, North Carolina, but he was reduced to garbage-time duty against the Bobcats. In the four-game sweep, he received three DNP-Coaching Decisions.
After not playing a meaningful minute in about a month without an injury excuse, Battier found out on Monday afternoon at Miami’s practice that he’d start Game 1.
“Time to go to work,” Battier said. “It wasn’t like I was scared of the moment or overly excited. I just said, ‘OK, it’s time to do my homework on Joe Johnson and Paul Pierce.’ I’ve been doing that my entire career. That much I can control.”
But the butterflies, the doubt, the insecurities -- he couldn’t control those ahead of Game 1.
“Ask my wife,” Battier said. “I was nervous.”
Rust was a big storyline heading into Tuesday’s Game 1, but Battier drilled his first shot of the game, a 3-pointer set up by LeBron James. On the night, Battier finished with eight points in 26 minutes and largely handled his assignment against Pierce and Johnson. It’s not much, but it was all Battier needed to ease his worries.
“Doubt is what drives me, the nervousness that I don’t have it anymore,” Battier said. “There’s nothing a coach or anyone can say to me that’s more powerful than my own fear that I can’t do it anymore.”
It’s not the first time Battier has let the doubt sneak in since joining James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. When he inked a three-year deal after the lockout in 2011 and struggled for months to find his form, the nerves got the best of him. He finished the season shooting 38.7 percent from the floor and 33.9 percent from downtown -- both career-lows.
“I had insecurities, no question,” Battier said of his first season in 2011-12. “This place, more so than any other place that I’ve been, your insecurities rear its ugly head. It’s not for everybody.”
The Heat, of course, won the title in 2012 after Spoelstra went unconventional and put Battier at the 4 in the starting lineup in the NBA Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Battier responded by hitting 15 3-pointers in five games.
“Doubt has been a driving force since high school,” Battier said. “In high school, when I won national player of the year, I thought maybe I’m just a good high school player and I can’t play at college. And then when I won college player of the year, I thought, 'Well, maybe I’m just a good college player. Maybe I’ll be a bust.'"
The doubt came back again last postseason when he received his first DNP-CD in Game 7 of the Pacers series. Following that game, he went to a local bar and sang karaoke with his wife to fight the doubt. Two weeks later, he had his number called again in Game 7 and hit six 3-pointers in the series clincher.
“I’m 35 years old and I have two titles and now ... you always have to prove yourself, prove it to yourself.”
The journey is not over for Battier. Far from it. This is but one game and it was far from his best. But in this series with the Brooklyn Nets that features former All-Stars who are all nearing the twilight of their careers, it meant a little more to start and perform at a high level. Pierce, 36, and Kevin Garnett, 37, combined for as many points in Game 1 as Battier (eight).
“It comes and goes,” Battier said without specifying what "it" is. “You just never know when.”
1. Fact or Fiction: The Heat's 0-4 record against the Nets this season is a cause for concern.
Tom Haberstroh: Fiction. Here's how the margin at the end of regulation looked in the four games: Brooklyn plus-one, Brooklyn plus-one, tied, Brooklyn plus-one. If the Heat were getting blown out of every game, then it would be a concern. They picked heads four times, came up tails.
Michael Wallace: Fact. There were no fluke performances among the four games. There were three one-point games and another decided in overtime. The Heat have some real matchup issues with the combination of length, skill and experience. If the Nets can dictate their pace and protect the ball, they can cause Miami some real problems.
2. Fact or Fiction: When the ball is tipped in Game 1, the Heat will have the three best players on the floor.
Gutierrez: Fiction. At least not based on production. The Nets can claim either Deron Williams or Joe Johnson as better than either Chris Bosh or Dwyane Wade in any given game, especially if you're going by final stat lines. Johnson and/or Williams will be required to be at their best for the Nets to have a chance in this series, so if Miami proves to have the three best players, it'll be a short series.
Haberstroh: Fact. But the Nets probably have four through 12, which may not matter as much in the playoffs. Dwyane Wade hasn't played much, but when he does, he's still a top player in the league. Joe Johnson bludgeoned Toronto's wings, but I don't see that happening against Miami.
Wallace: Fiction. Paul Pierce may not be close to what he was in his prime, but he's found a way to turn back the clock against the Heat. I'm sure Joe Johnson would object to this premise as well. This series will be determined as much by the next three in the respective rotations as much as by the best three on either side.
3. Fact or Fiction: The Heat wrap this series up in 5 games or fewer.
Gutierrez: Fact. I've got it ending in five, in part because the Heat were able to rest and probably had the Nets in mind the entire time they were waiting. Once the Heat adjust to Brooklyn's size on the wing and their paint-protecting defense, Miami will have a relatively easy time.
Haberstroh: Fiction. The Dwyane Wade factor looms large, but I don't think the Heat put on the gentleman's sweep. Wade, timely rest and a motivated LeBron James will make the regular-season sweep a mirage, but it will take six games to do so.
Wallace: Fiction. I'm taking the over, with this being settled in six or seven games. Pierce and Kevin Garnett have a reputation for making things drag out when facing LeBron and the Heat. Different team, same drama.
In the end, the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Miami Heat 100-87 on the home floor of the defending champions. But both teams got what they wanted in the season finale.
For the Heat, walking away from the regular season unscathed was the ultimate objective at the end of the 82-game slog. The chase for the No. 1 seed never materialized into much of a chase. Even with the door still open to get the East’s top seed over the Indiana Pacers earlier in the week, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra elected to rest LeBron James and Chris Bosh for the final two games of the regular season.
One door closes, another opens. After finishing the regular season with a 54-28 record -- the worst final record of Miami’s Big Three era -- Heat’s three-peat quest continues with the seventh-seeded Charlotte Bobcats coming into town for Game 1 on Sunday afternoon.
The Heat probably could have ended on a higher note, but James and Bosh did not play on Wednesday night in the name of rest. Dwyane Wade gave it a go for the third consecutive game after a nine-game layoff dealing with a sore hamstring. And after 23 uneven minutes, Wade came away pleased with not just his Wednesday performance, but the team’s months-long maintenance program.
“I did what I wanted to do,” Wade said. “I’m happy going into the postseason. [My health] is a lot better than going into the playoffs last season.”
Getting Wade some playing time without aggravating an injury? That was atop the Heat’s priority list on Wednesday; the game result did not matter. Next on the priority list was making sure that Greg Oden could return to the floor without any hiccups after missing two and a half weeks with back issues and a stomach bug. After 13 minutes of action, they checked that off the list as well.
The third objective was less serious: allowing Shane Battier to reach a career milestone of 30,000 regular-season minutes. Battier joked with Spoelstra at the morning shootaround that he needed to play a season-high 36 minutes in his final regular season game in order to reach 30,000 for his career.
Spoelstra laughed it off in the morning, but by the evening, he ran out of bodies at the end of the bench. James, Bosh, Rashard Lewis and Chris Andersen all got the night off and Michael Beasley turned his right ankle in the third quarter and had to leave the game.
At that point, Battier checked in with the scorer’s table to see how many minutes he needed until 30,000.
“Only six?” Battier laughed as he turned to walk onto the court. “I’ve come this far, can’t turn back now.”
Battier ended up playing 39 minutes -- three more than he needed -- and finished with a trio of 3-pointers.
“Once I sniffed it, it was like a dog to a T-bone,” Battier said. “I had to go get it.”
After the loss, Battier, who’s expected to retire this summer, marched into the locker room, fully-equipped with jokes.
“I came in the league averaging about 40 minutes a game,” Battier announced to his teammates, “And in my last game I played about 40 minutes.”
Wade finished with 13 points on 6-of-14 shooting, but never really got into the flow against a surprisingly pesky 76ers defense. Actually, the 76ers never trailed after midway through the second quarter and oddly enough ended up taking the season-series 2-1 over the Heat.
The 76ers could have mailed it in and no one would have blamed them with nothing tangible in the standings to gain. But instead, the 76ers gave everything they had after an arduous season that saw them tie an NBA record for most losses in a row (26). It was just one win, but it provided a morsel of redemption.
Rookie of the Year candidate Michael Carter-Williams drained three 3-pointers after struggling from deep for weeks. After drilling one of the threes, first-year head coach Brett Brown smiled ear-to-ear on the sidelines and clapped in encouragement as if he had just watched his own child steer his bike without training wheels for the first time.
The 76ers’ positivity continued. After a slew of Philadelphia plays that forced a frustrated Spoelstra to call a timeout, Brown bear-hugged his giggling guard Tony Wroten out at midcourt. The 19-win team pushed the Heat around all game and forced multiple 24-second shot-clock violations.
This, coming from the team that boasts one of the NBA’s worst defensive efficiencies.
The Heat understand Wednesday’s effort won’t cut it on Sunday.
“We’ll be tested,” Spoelstra said. “Our guys understand that.”
The Heat are fully aware with how well the Bobcats have played lately, finishing the season on a 9-3 run. The Bobcats ended up with the sixth-ranked defense, something nobody saw coming after they ranked dead-last in the NBA last season and added the offensive-minded Al Jefferson to anchor their back line.
“They deserve the respect of how they’ve played the last six weeks,” Spoelstra said. “They’ve been one of the better teams in the league. Jefferson since January has been one of the top players in this league. They’re a worthy, worthy opponent.”
Though the Heat swept the season-series against the Bobcats, Wade shared Spoelstra’s respect for coach Steve Clifford’s club.
“That team competes very hard,” Wade said. “They’re comfortable in their game. They’ve got a great one-two punch with Kemba Walker and Big Al. We have to come with our hard hats on and stay focused throughout.”
The Heat stumbled into the postseason with three losses in a row. James, Wade and Bosh have only played one game together this month and it came in a double-digit loss to Atlanta.
But despite the lack of playing time together, Wade didn’t foresee any issues getting on the same page with James.
“I’m not worried about continuity with him at all,” Wade said after the game. “The biggest thing is that we both know what we need to do. We just have to do it. We’ve been playing together for four years. That’s enough continuity right there.”
AmericanAirlines Arena had been a harrowing place for Brown, who was an assistant coach under Gregg Popovich for the San Antonio Spurs last season, his seventh in that capacity. Interestingly enough, Brown made plans to travel to San Antonio on Thursday after the regular season wrapped up.
The plan? To catch up with a close friend and mentor Popovich.
“Popovich is the single greatest basketball influence I’ve had outside my father,” Brown said. “Popovich’s skill package is off the charts. One, he’s a good person. Second, he’s highly intelligent, and third, he’s a hell of a coach.”
On Thursday, Brown will make a trip to San Antonio to see old friends. Somewhere down the line in the next couple months, the Alamo may be in the Heat’s plans as well. The three-peat quest is officially on.
With the second seed in the Eastern Conference locked up, Miami Heat forward LeBron James and center Chris Bosh will sit out Wednesday's season finale as they host the Philadelphia 76ers.
Heat guard Dwyane Wade, however, will play in his third consecutive game after being sidelined for his previous nine games as part of the team's season-long maintenance program. Wade has missed a total of 28 games this season. Heat backup center Greg Oden is also expected to be activated after sitting out with back soreness and a stomach virus following his last appearance on March 26 against the Indiana Pacers.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra also said that he would rest Heat backup center Chris Andersen and point guard Mario Chalmers on Wednesday.
The NBA announced on Wednesday night that the Heat will open the playoffs against either the Washington Wizards or the Charlotte Bobcats on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET. The Sunday start would give James and Bosh each a full week of rest before the postseason begins.
Because of the Heat's maintenance schedules, the team's star trio of James, Wade and Bosh have played only one game together since March 27.
The 76ers are trying to wrap up a woeful season on a high note. Beating the Heat on Wednesday would give them their first pair of consecutive victories since early January.
The Heat will likely play the opening round against the seventh-seeded Bobcats on Sunday. The Heat would play the Wizards only if the Wizards lose to the Boston Celtics on the road and the Bobcats beat the Chicago Bulls in Charlotte.
1. What has been the most encouraging part of Miami’s season?
Tom Haberstroh: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh enter the playoffs healthier than they were this time a year ago. Really, the regular season was just an 82-game preseason for the Heat and little mattered outside of the trainer’s room. The maintenance program for Wade, as taxing as it was for Bosh and James, seemed to work. For now.
Brian Windhorst: The playoffs are starting and all 15 players on the roster are available and reasonably healthy. LeBron and Bosh will go in with at least a week off and Wade certainly hasn't been overworked. They have won a road game in all 12 series they've played in the past three years, so not having home court has a limited disadvantage.
2. What has been the most disappointing part of Miami’s season?
Gutierrez: The inconsistency all around. From the defensive play to the shooting of Ray Allen and Shane Battier to the appearances from Wade. All of it has translated into a level of play that has created more questions than the Heat have faced at this time over the past three seasons.
Haberstroh: The supporting cast. The Michael Beasley experiment has come up empty. Ray Allen has finally shown he’s not immune to age. Greg Oden may be sidelined for the remainder of the season. Norris Cole has not developed. Shane Battier for months looked like a shell of himself. If it weren’t for Chris Andersen and Udonis Haslem’s recent revival, this would be a disaster.
Windhorst: This is the least imposing team of the past four seasons. Some of that is because of depth, some is because of in-season injuries, some is because of fatigue and motivation issues. Instead of ramping up for the playoffs like last year (which the Spurs are doing this year), the Heat have gone into the postseason in a relative tailspin.
3. What is the biggest threat to Miami’s quest to three-peat?
Gutierrez: Well, there are any number of things, including health, lack of size now that it appears Greg Oden might not be a factor, or the loss of home court against either the Pacers or any number of Western Conference teams. But if I'm picking one "threat" to the Heat three-peating, it's the same threat that nearly cost them last year's title: the Spurs.
Haberstroh: Their bodies. That has always been the case. They have more than enough talent to go around, but they will only go as far as their aging bodies take them. The only key players under 30 years old are LeBron James (who turns 30 in December) and Mario Chalmers. Do they have another championship run in them?
Windhorst: Over the past two seasons, they have had to win three Game 7s to win their titles. All three were at home. The Heat will enter the postseason with the fifth-best record, and that means if they play any of the four teams ahead of them, they will have to play Game 7 on the road. The Spurs are itching for a chance to take advantage of that this year.