Heat playoff run could decide James' future in Miami

Thu Apr 17, 2014 3:49pm EDT
 
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By Frank Pingue

(Reuters) - The Miami Heat may not be entering the playoffs as the top seed but they are still very much the team to beat, and anything less than a third consecutive NBA title could lead to the breakup of their Big Three.

No club has won three straight titles since the Los Angeles Lakers in the early 2000s, and the 16-team field for this year's playoffs, which begin on Saturday, has no shortage of contenders for the NBA's Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy.

The San Antonio Spurs, who were a whisker away from winning last year's NBA Finals, and the Indiana Pacers, eager to avenge last season's loss to Miami in the Eastern conference finals, are just two of the many teams feeling good about their chances.

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh joined forces in 2010 with the goal of creating a dynasty in Miami by stockpiling NBA titles but enter the postseason facing questions about team chemistry and depth.

Anything less than a championship could determine whether James, Wade and Bosh make themselves available to the highest bidder this offseason as they have early-termination options in their respective contracts.

Unlike last year, Miami failed to secure the top seed in the East, which means they will not have home-court advantage after the second round. That could prove costly as Miami were forced to seven games in last year's conference final and NBA Finals.

Wade, 32, missed a quarter of this season with various injuries given a style of play that has punished his body over the years and his health may be Miami's biggest concern as they navigate a playoff schedule that offers little time for rest.

But James, who was named the most valuable player in each of the last two NBA Finals, has proven himself as a big-game player who can rise to the occasion.   Continued...

 
Mar 1, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) adjusts his mask before a game against the Orlando Magic at American Airlines Arena. Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports