The National Basketball Association’s regular season is over. And the big question as the NBA playoffs begin is: Can anyone beat the Heat?
The defending champion Miami Heat rolled through the 2012-13 season with the best record in the NBA. Its stellar season featured a 27-game winning streak.
LeBron James showed everyone he is still the best player on the planet by averaging almost 27 points per game while grabbing an average of eight rebounds and dishing out more than seven assists. All-stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh helped, too. Wade scored more than 21 points per game, while Bosh averaged more than 16 points and almost seven rebounds.
Add dependable veterans, such as shooting guard Ray Allen and defensive forward Shane Battier, and you can see why the Heat was super tough.
So if the players stay healthy, I don’t think any team in the Eastern Conference, except maybe the New York Knicks, can give them trouble. The Knicks were red-hot at the end of the season, putting together a 13-game winning streak in March and April.
High-scoring forward Carmelo Anthony and off-the-bench shooter J.R. Smith give the Knicks an outside chance to knock off Miami. But I don’t see New York winning a seven-game series against the champs.
So folks who root against the Heat — and lots of people do — will have to hope the Western Conference champ can beat Miami. (In the playoffs, teams play within their conference, and then the two conference champions play in the NBA Finals.)
The problem is that whichever team wins the West may be too exhausted to beat the Heat. Unlike the weaker Eastern Conference, the West is stacked with solid clubs. Five teams in the West — the Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies — won more than two-thirds of their regular-season games. Expect all of the Western Conference series to be long and hard-fought.
The Thunder is led by do-everything forward Kevin Durant, who was born in Washington and played hoops as a youngster around Prince George’s County. Durant and point guard Russell Westbrook give the Thunder plenty of scoring punch, together averaging more than 51 points per game. Underrated power forward Serge Ibaka supplies enough muscle to make the Thunder the favorite to win the West.
But watch out for the Los Angeles Clippers. Point guard Chris Paul has been terrific leading that team’s balanced attack; seven players regularly score between eight and 18 points a game. The Clippers could be a big surprise.
But don’t expect them, or any other team, to beat the Heat.
Fred Bowen writes the sports opinion column for KidsPost. He is the author of 19 sports books for kids. His latest basketball book is “Real Hoops.”