And for Miami, this should be its moment. The Heat is well positioned to win a championship during a postseason in which no team has an aura of invincibility. LeBron James, 26, Dwyane Wade, 29, and Chris Bosh, 27, give the Heat the young star power needed for what it was built to accomplish.
Forget about Miami’s occasional struggles in the previous 82-game marathon. Now, it’s a sprint to 16 victories.
The faster format better suits Miami’s front-heavy roster. The Big Three wasn’t good enough to make Miami the league’s best team in the regular season — but the trio could put the Heat on top at the end.
James scored 29 points Monday night, Bosh contributed 21 points and 11 rebounds and Wade added 14 points to help the Heat take a 2-0 series lead against Philadelphia.
No surprises. Just too much skill for the 76ers to overcome at a time of year when coaches no longer worry as much about managing minutes, referees generally call fewer fouls and the stage is too big for some.
Chicago — the Eastern Conference’s top-seeded team — rallied to overcome a late deficit against eighth-seeded Indiana in its first game. Third-seeded Boston needed a three-pointer from Ray Allen, the game’s all-time leader in threes, to hold off New York.
San Antonio and Los Angeles — the Western Conference’s Nos. 1 and 2 teams — lost on their home courts. It marked the first time since 1984 that the top two seeds from the same conference lost playoff openers.
The Spurs, Lakers and Celtics are old teams, albeit still talented ones. Derrick Rose, 22, who’s expected to win the most valuable player award, leads the rising Bulls, but the Heat is the only team with three superstars under 30.
Although Kobe Bryant supporters would disagree, James is the league’s most talented player. Just ask NBA officials.
Wade is widely considered a top-five performer and Bosh is among the elite as well. The Heat’s overall lack of talent and depth behind them was the biggest factor in a season-high five-game losing streak spanning late February and early March.
The losing stirred increased media coverage of the league’s most scrutinized franchise, and hope of a complete collapse among Miami’s detractors.
There’s still a lot of resentment and jealously in the league toward Miami because of James’s poorly handled exit from Cleveland and team President Pat Riley’s success in luring James and Bosh to the Heat last summer while also retaining Wade. But instead of fading, Miami finished 15-3.
The impressive stretch raised the Heat’s confidence level to “an all-time high,” James said recently. “Everyone is comfortable. Everyone knows their role and we know what’s our identity. And that’s playing together.”