After winning their second title, the Miami Heat began their fourth season of the Big Three era with a lot of questions surrounding them. Some of the most common include “Will LeBron leave Miami after this season?”, “Will the Heat be able to be the first team since the 80s to reach a fourth consecutive finals?”, “Is Dwyane Wade healthy enough to help the Heat three-peat?”, and “Will the Heat be able to overcome another grueling series over the gigantic Indiana Pacers?”
For some time, that seemed like a legitimate argument. The Pacers looked by far like the best team in the league for a big part of the regular season. Dwyane Wade also missed numerous games, sitting down most back-to-back games to conserve his knees, and the team itself has seen its share of inconsistencies, both on the defensive end and on the chemistry front, caused by a variety of different lineups due to the absence of Wade. It is safe to say that all of these circumstances validate the arguments made in the latter paragraphs.
However, things are beginning to tip in the direction of the Heat as the second half of the season goes under-way. Not only did they finish their recent west coast road trip with a 5-1 record, but also all of those wins came against strong playoff teams like the Clippers and the Thunder, where LeBron James put on an incredible display only to finish the win with a broken nose. That broken nose, however, gave Dwyane Wade a chance to quiet down all those questioning his health, flirting with a triple double in Sunday’s win against the Bulls without LeBron.
Even more spectacular that those stats, however, is the consistency that this team has shown in the last four years. For the last four seasons, the Heat have had a record of 39-14 through the first 53 games of the season. That is staggering when you consider the sheer amount of basketball that this team has had to play and endure to reach the finals for the last three years.
Yet, what makes Miami so dangerous, is the way they look when they get hungry, when that fire in their belly is re-kindled and they can smell the atmosphere of the playoffs, where another Larry O’Brien trophy could be waiting for them at the end of the long tunnel that is the 2013-2014 season. You can see this hunger in the relentlessness they have shown recently, both offensively and defensively.
If there is one thing we are reminded every single year is this: Never, ever count the Miami Heat out.