The start of the 2014 NBA Playoffs has been bizarre to say the least. The veteran Chicago Bulls were eliminated 4-1 by the young Washington Wizards. Championship favorites Indiana and Oklahoma City have teetered on elimination and are now forced to play game sevens. The dominant Spurs who led the league with the best regular season record, look pretty beatable in the postseason. Let’s not forget that little situation with the Clippers in L.A.
While the basketball world is seemingly falling apart the one team that looks like themselves is the Miami Heat. Miami steamrolled the Bobcats 4-0 in the first round of the playoffs. The Heat were the only team in the playoffs to complete a sweep.
Battling against a hot defensive-minded Bobcats team was merely dirt on the shoulder for the defending NBA Champions. Miami beat Charlotte by an average of 9.7 points per game while posting 101.7 points per contest.
This was a team that limped into the playoffs going 13-14 in the months of March and April. The Heat have clearly flipped the switch and are getting down to business.
Leading the charge for Miami is you guessed it, LeBron James. The King of Akron averaged 30 points a game in the first round of the playoffs while shooting a blazing 55%. James’ co-star, Dwyane Wade, who rested throughout much of the regular season, looks renewed and ready for a long playoff run.
The Heat will face the Brooklyn Nets or Toronto Raptors in the second round. Toronto currently leads the series 3-2. Miami swept Toronto 4-0 in the regular season, and lost the season series to Brooklyn 0-4.
Miami would clearly prefer to play Toronto, as the Nets seemingly have their number, but I’m not sure it matters. Miami is battle tested having played in the last three NBA Finals.
The other side of the bracket includes the Washington Wizards and the winner of the series between the Indiana Pacers and Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks have pushed the first seeded Pacers to a game 7, which is more indicative of the Pacers’ struggles than the Hawks’ abilities.
The biggest obstacle in the way of Miami’s third straight championship was supposed to be the Indiana Pacers, but they’re falling apart. Regardless of what happens in game 7 between Indiana and Atlanta, I’m predicting that Washington will defeat the winner of the series setting up a Heat vs. Wizards Eastern Conference Finals.
Do the Wizards pose a serious threat to Miami winning the East? I don’t think so.
Miami’s path to the NBA Finals is an easy one. Out west the top three contenders are in disarray. The Thunder are facing a game 7 against the Grizzlies, the Spurs are struggling to beat the Mavericks, and the Clippers are having major issues on and off the court. Whoever comes out of the West will be ripe for the picking by the time they meet Miami in the Finals.
The Heat were supposed to be running on fumes by now but the basketball gods are apparently on their side. This will be the easiest championship run for the Heat thus far.