Everyone has seen this story before, because it happens every year. The NBA Playoffs provide a couple of upsets early on and then slowly they underdogs start to be slowly weeded out one by one until the alpha team is left standing. The Washington Wizards and Portland Trail Blazers tried to crash the party this year, but both ran into bigger and badder foes like a brick wall, much like the Memphis Grizzlies and Golden State Warriors last year. All this boils down to one conclusion: the Miami Heat are a lock to bring home a third consecutive NBA title.
This season’s installment of the playoffs got off to a legendary start with all the overtimes in round one and five of the eight series going seven games. Every underdog that made a spirited run in the first round got stomped out in Game Seven. Round two was mostly uneventful and the league now is set up once again with the indisputable four best teams remaining. None are unfamiliar faces. This is Miami’s fourth consecutive conference final, Indiana’s second, the third in four years for Oklahoma City and the third in a row for San Antonio. Despite the pedigrees of the rest of the field, it is still outrageous to believe that anyone other than the Miami Heat are going to win it all.
The Heat have breezed through two rounds so far while losing just one game in the process. It appears the Pacers have righted the ship somewhat, and maybe the added intensity of a rematch from last year’s conference finals will light a bigger fire under them, but they have not looked the part of a top-seeded team at any point in this year’s playoffs. They handled the Wizards in round two better than they did the Atlanta Hawks in round one, but any chance of them riding Roy Hibbert to the brink of the NBA Finals like last season is slim to none. The sour taste is still in basketball fans’ minds from their limp towards the finish line during the season’s final few months.
The biggest thing the Miami Heat have going for them is the health of Dwyane Wade. Head coach Erik Spoelstra limited his minutes all season with exactly this in mind, and he has looked great so far in the postseason. LeBron James has been his usual self, averaging 30 points in each of the first two round while chewing up defenses for lots of free throws.
One thing the Miami Heat do not have going for them is depth, which is an issue seemingly only the Spurs could exploit in a possible NBA Finals rematch. However, the fact remains that the NBA playoffs are where true titanic battles take place, but rarely do they ever end in surprises in the later rounds. The best team with the best player will hold the throne until knocked off, and nobody has been able to knock off the Miami Heat just yet. Fans need to get comfortable and enjoy some unbelievable basketball, but they are watching the wrong sport if they are expecting any shocking outcomes.
Commentary by Justin Hussong
Guardian Liberty Voice Sports Writer