With the NBA pundits crying foul over the fact that LeBron James wasn’t unanimously declared the league’s MVP (he missed out on just a single vote), and with the Miami Heat holding the NBA’s best record by a wide margin, is there any hope at all for the teams that wish to make a legitimate challenge on the superstar basketball team from Miami?
Based on recent events though, it seems the Chicago Bulls may just be the team to give the Heat a real fight. Having pulled off a dramatic game 1 victory, the Bulls have shown themselves to be capable without having their impressive star Derrick Rose in the lineup. Nate Robinson drained 27 points, scored several important 3-point shots, and basically dominated the game in the last 2 minutes. However, the NBA playoffs engage in 7 game series to ensure that the best team wins, and barring a miraculous run by the Bulls, I would still put my money on the Heat romping back to the Eastern Conference Finals and beyond.
One of the things that has made the path for the Heat so encouraging is the fact that so many key players on major teams have been injured. We already saw the demise of the Los Angeles Lakers when Kobe Bryant had to sit out the end of the year. Additionally, the Los Angeles Clippers suffered an injury to Blake Griffin that saw their impressive Pacific Division victory result in the team crashing out in round 1 of the NBA Playoffs.
Further injuries have hampered the teams still in the chase. The Oklahoma City Thunder had already absorbed the loss of James Harden this offseason, but recently saw Russell Westbrook go down with a knee injury. The point guard has been instrumental to the Thunder’s success, and now the team’s hopes lie solely on the play of Kevin Durant. Durant is a true star player, but as everyone knows in the NBA, even Michael Jordan needed Scottie Pippen to reach his full potential. Though, if Durant could propel the Thunder to a NBA Championship, the feat could be the mark of a true legend. There is a long way to go, and a potential NBA Finals rematch with the Heat would be extremely tough now without 2 of the 3 crucial players in last year’s Thunder run.
Perhaps the team that people should predict in the NBA Finals as a challenger to the Heat is the San Antonio Spurs. Having won several championships in the mid 2000’s, the team still has most of those stars in the lineup and have won their division for 3 straight years. Although their playoff play hasn’t been as great recently, Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, and Manu Ginobili could use their experience to present a serious challenge to the Heat.
Regardless of their opening round loss to the Bulls, I do feel that this year will be another victorious march for LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, and co. The Heat is by far the most talented team in the league, and they are playing with real pride and passion. Although sports fans do love an exciting upset story, I find it real hard to visualize any team pushing the Heat to the brink this year.
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