Thursday, April 24, 2014
By BRIAN MAHONEY The Associated Press
Looking for a reason not to pick the Miami Heat to win another NBA title?
They will, they will scorch you ... from left, Miami Heat guard Dwayne Wade, forward Chris Bosh and forward LeBron James are set to simmer against the Milwaukee Bucks when the NBA playoffs tip off this weekend.
The Associated Press
SATURDAY’S NBA PLAYOFF GAMES
• Boston at New York, 3 p.m. (ABC)
• Golden State at Denver, 5:30 p.m. (ESPN)
• Chicago at Brooklyn, 8 p.m. (ESPN)
• Memphis at L.A. Clippers, 10:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Don't check the odds, where the Heat are such an overwhelming favorite that it might as well be Tiger Woods against a weekend hacker.
Definitely don't bother with the Heat's results, which show exactly three losses since the start of February.
And certainly don't look on the court, where LeBron James sent season-long reminders that he's better than ever and already the best in the world.
The only people who might really believe in caution are the Heat themselves.
"There's going to be trials and tribulations no matter what, no matter how good of a team you are," Dwyane Wade said. "There's going to be a moment in the playoffs where our back is going to be against the wall. And I think everything we've done this season will prepare us for that moment. We have a goal, just like every other team that gets into the playoffs, to win a championship. But we understand the process that it takes."
It starts Saturday, when the playoffs start with four first-round games. The Heat will open Sunday against Milwaukee in what's expected to be a quick series.
Then it will be up to someone like the Knicks, Thunder, Spurs or some other contender to prove that the next two months aren't just a formality.
"They've had the best record and they're the defending champs so they're the team to beat, but I don't think it's much beyond that," Nets interim coach P.J. Carlesimo said. "I mean, give them their due. They have the best record and they're the defending champs, so they're the team that you need to beat, but no, I don't think anybody is head and shoulders over any. There's too many good teams."
New York, which won three out of four from Miami, hosts Boston on Saturday in the playoff opener. The Nets welcome Chicago for the first postseason game in Brooklyn, while the Western Conference has Golden State visiting Denver, and the Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies squaring off in a first-round rematch.
On Sunday, the Lakers go to San Antonio without Kobe Bryant, and defending West champ Oklahoma City faces former Thunder star James Harden and Houston. Indiana and Atlanta meet in the other East game.
Miami went 66-16 and has been so dominant since Super Bowl Sunday that the betting site Bovada gave the Heat opening odds to win the championship that it said were "unheard of in recent years" -- and then already had to lower them when most of the action was coming in on the Heat, anyway.
That dropped Miami to a 2-to-3 favorite, meaning a $3 bet only won $2 more. The Heat were 2-to-9 favorites to win the East, where Indiana and Chicago also beat them multiple times during the regular season.
Knicks center Tyson Chandler said the other contenders shouldn't feel slighted by all the experts that are picking the Heat.
"No, not at all. They should pick the Heat," he said. "They're the defending champions and they should get that respect. But that's not what we believe. We haven't believed in that throughout the year. But they should get that respect because they've earned it."
Miami faced plenty of adversity during last season's championship run. They were down 2-1 to Indiana in the second round, with Wade struggling and Chris Bosh injured. The Celtics took a 3-2 lead in the conference finals back to Boston before James fought off elimination with a 45-point performance in Game 6, and the Thunder took the opener of the NBA finals and nearly rallied two nights later to put the Heat in a 2-0 hole.
(Continued on page 2)