Top Five Teams That Can Beat the Miami Heat in the NBA Playoffs; The List is Here
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It's lonely at the top, but when you're the world champions in the NBA, that's a good thing.
As of Friday, the defending NBA world champion Miami Heat stand at a 9-3 record, with a two-game lead in the Southeast division, and the second-best record in the East behind the dominant-looking Indiana Pacers (10-1 win-loss record).
All in all, it's not a bad way to start out the quest for a third straight NBA Championship for the Kings of South Beach. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the rest of the Heat crew are sitting pretty right now, all their stars healthy, all their major pieces in play.
Even the rise of the Pacers, who are tied with the San Antonio Spurs for the best record in the NBA, don't seem to faze the champs.
"Nope," Mario Chalmers told Bleacher Report this week when asked if his team was concerned about Indiana. "They still got to see us. At the end of the day, they still got to come play us."
Chalmers is right about that. Right now, the Heat are still the NBA's finest, and they have the hardware to prove it with two back-to-back rings. However, while it might be too soon to tell, the start of the NBA season has given a few hints as to some emerging contenders to the throne that King James and his friends sit on as the season goes on.
Latino Post breaks down some of these emerging contenders, what they have going for them, and their chances of unseating Miami as the NBA champions for this season:
1 Indiana Pacers
Youth coming of age is what sums up the Pacers at this point. The Pacers are young, tall, athletic and loaded with talent, but more importantly, they're one year smarter and more experienced after taking the Heat to the limit in seven hard-fought games in the Eastern Conference Finals last season. With a roster that includes the sensational Paul George, the talented George Hill, the imposing seven-footer Roy Hibbert-who made a name for himself in the playoffs last spring-and the bruising 6'9 power forward David West, the Pacers are on a roll and looking to make a name for themselves. Already off to a 10-1 start, the Pacers are looking to become a dominant force in the East. One year wiser and hungrier, the Pacers are probably the biggest threat to the Heat's three-year reign as Eastern Conference Champions, though fans have yet to see how they match up head-to-head until the two teams collide for the first time this season on Dec. 10.
Chances of beating Miami: High The Pacers are ready to take things to the next level. It feels a lot like this is their year. They have the big game experience, they have the talent, and they have the desire. If there is one team the Heat has to watch out for, it's Indiana.
2 San Antonio Spurs
The defending Western Conference champion Spurs didn't make much noise in the offseason. Then again, with a roster this deep and experienced, they probably didn't have to. Currently with a 10-1 record that ties them with Indiana for the league's best record, San Antonio didn't feel the need to make any major acquisitions despite falling short to the Heat in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Still led by the veteran trio of future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan, perennial All-Star point guard Tony Parker and the sharpshooting Manu Ginobili, the Spurs are blostered by the reliable Tiago Splitter in the frontcourt and young and talented Danny Green in the backcourt. Their bench also got stronger with the addition of the smooth-shooting former Bulls shooting guard Marco Belinelli. They might not be racking up points as quickly as they did last season, but their pass-heavy precision offense still baffles opponents and puts them in the front of the line for discussion as to potential NBA champs this season.
Chances of beating Miami: Medium High Never count out experience, and the Spurs have that in spades, along with offense and the mental toughness of a champion. If the Heat meet the Spurs in a Finals rematch, the Spurs could have what it takes to once again reign on top of the NBA.
3 Chicago Bulls
The Bulls and Heat have one of the most personal and nasty rivalries in the NBA. These are two teams that don't like each other in the slightest. Last season, the injury-stricken Bulls surprised a lot of people by getting very physical and intimidating with Miami in their five-game semifinals series, and although Chicago lost 4-1, they made sure that the Heat got bloody noses to earn those victories. Fast forward one season later: Derrick Rose is back. The sensational, game-changing former league MVP with the explosive drive and the knack for game-winning shots is back after missing more than a year from ACL surgery and rehab. (Note: Rose's recent injury to his right knee--not the one he injured previously--could have a dramatic impact on the Bulls' season, especially if he's out for an extended period of time. He is scheduled to get an MRI Saturday.) All-Star forward Joakim Noah matured as a go-to leader in Rose's absence, while fellow All-Star Luol Deng has proven to be dangerous on offense with his all-around game. Add that to a punishing defense that allows only 93.3 points per game-third best in the league behind San Antonio and top-ranked Indiana, respectively-and the Bulls have the tools to compete with the Heat, provided they stay healthy-something that their physical style of play may make harder to achieve than we think.
Chances of beating Miami: Fair The Bulls' biggest obstacle in this 82-game season remains their ability to stay healthy. Injuries to Rose, Noah, Deng and key sub Kirk Hinrich hit them at inopportune times last season. If they can remain healthy, they have a legitimate shot at challenging Miami. If not, it will be another disappointing year for Chicago.
4. L.A. Clippers
The 8-4 Clippers, currently a half-game behind the Warriors in the Pacific Division, have one of the most dynamic offenses in the NBA, averaging 107.3 points per game, the second-highest total in the league. They still need to get their act together on defense-which allows 105.1 points per night, third worst in the NBA-but they are in capable hands under the guidance of new coach Doc Rivers, who steered Boston to an NBA title, two NBA Finals appearances and five straight Atlantic Division crowns. Their offense is powered by the electrifying Chris Paul, the MVP of the 2013 All-Star Game, as well as the high-flying Blake Griffin and solid contributors like Jamal Crawford, J.J. Redick and DeAndre Jordan. Paul could have skipped town, but he opted to stay because he feels the Clippers can contend for a title. With this cast behind him, it would be hard to count the Clippers out.
Chances of beating Miami: Fair The Clippers are young, hungry and talented, but they lack in the experience department when it comes to going deep into the playoffs. Still shaking off their bitter first-round series loss to the Grizzlies, the Clippers have something to prove this season.
5 Brooklyn Nets
Okay, admittedly, that seems like a stretch at the moment. At 3-8, any team with such a subpar record doesn't exactly look like the safe bet to beat reigning MVP James and the Heat. But bear this in mind-the Nets are one of only three teams so far this season that have proven they could beat Miami, Brooklyn eeking out a 101-100 Nov.1 win against the Heat. Add this in mind; the Nets are not built to be a contender in a few years, they're not a young team with time to burn. They're built to win now. Why else would Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov have spared no expense in getting former Celtics greats Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett-two of the grittiest playoff performers in the last 10 years-along with veteran Jason Terry and the talented Andrei Kirilenko to pair alongside superstar guard Deron Williams and All-Star center Brook Lopez? The team is struggling and injured right now, but if they rebound and stay healthy through the season, they're not a team anyone would want to face in the playoffs with that much experience and talent powering them.
Chances of beating Miami: Fair The Nets are floundering right now, which is not a good sign, but they probably won't be for long. Still, health will be the key for this team. The title hopes of the Nets lie on the shoulders of Garnett and Pierce. If they can stay healthy and the team can start to bond late in the season, Brooklyn has a very good shot at taking on the Heat. But if they start breaking down, there's no chance for Brooklyn to dethrone the champs.
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