Can Anyone Stop the Heat?
By Zach Hand
In all of professional sports, perhaps no player is more reviled by fans then Lebron James. When he and fellow NBA superstars Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh joined forces with the Miami Heat for the 2010-2011 season, James made no secret of his goal to build a dynasty, stating that his team would win “not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven” championships. In the ’11-’12 season, Miami’s big three took their first step in bringing James’ prediction to reality, capturing their first NBA title together. Now, the Heat are poised to repeat as champions.
In the first round of the playoffs, the Heat swept the Milwaukee Bucks in a best of seven series to move on to the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Despite losing game one of the semifinals, the Heat defeated the Chicago Bulls in five games to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Indiana Pacers. In game one of the Eastern Conference Finals, despite a valiant effort from the Pacers, the Heat proved to be too much, winning by one point in overtime on a last second basket by James. So now, after their most recent victory over a team that appeared to have the game in their clutches, we are left to ponder the question: is there anyone left that can stop the Heat from defending their crown?
The most popular answer to this question would likely be no, there isn’t. But, in the words of Boston Celtics power forward Kevin Garnett, “Anything is possible.” While the Heat have without a doubt the most collective talent in the game, no team is invincible.
The team most likely to be able to de-throne the Heat is the San Antonio Spurs. These two teams met twice during the regular season with Miami winning both match-ups. However, neither team was at full strength during these games, as the Spurs elected to rest three of their best players in Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, and Tim Duncan during a November game, and the Heat chose to sit James, Wade, and Mario Chalmers during a game in March. If the two were to meet in the NBA Finals, all of these stars would certainly participate. This match up would be difficult for the Heat because during the playoffs, they have not had to deal with a talent level approaching their own. Duncan, Parker, and Ginobli would provide this challenge.
Even with their talent, the Spurs would need many things to go right to beat Miami. Their biggest weakness is probably the age of their stars, as all three are over 30 years old and more likely to break down physically over a long series or postseason. If the Spurs are able to finish their series with the Memphis Grizzlies quickly, they could have a chance to rest before the NBA Finals begins, which could prove to be vital in the Finals. It would also be beneficial to San Antonio if the Heat’s series with the Pacers goes six or seven games, causing the team to exert as much energy as possible. If these two events happen, San Antonio would have at least a fighting chance of beating Miami.
In basketball, just like in all sports, anything can happen but perhaps neither the Heat nor the Spurs will make it to the NBA Finals, and it will be a Grizzlies/Pacers match up. However, based on the success of the two teams to this point, it seems very likely that the Heat will face the Spurs with a ring on the line. If this match-up does happen, the Heat should still be heavy favorites despite the Spurs’ ability to challenge them. After all, Miami did win 66 games during the regular season, and at one point strung together a 27 game win streak. The Spurs should be able to give them a fight if the two meet in the Finals, but the Heat will likely win their second NBA title in as many years.