In less than two weeks, the Heat begins its annual struggle to stay motivated during the regular season. Hosting the “more explosive” Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls within the friendly confines of the American Airlines Arena, this Heat team is very aware of the game’s significance. A championship celebration, an MVP returning to the hardwood, heated rivalries – this game has all the drama any NBA fan could possibly hope for.
And then the next day, the Heat travels to Philadelphia to take on a woeful 76ers team that will struggle to reach 20 wins.
Welcome to the NBA regular season!
Since the formation of the Big 3 in 2010, the Heat appear to coast at certain times during the 82-game schedule. Like a casual NBA fan, the playoffs – way, way, waaaay in the future – are the only thing that seemingly matter.
But as the top teams in the Eastern Conference have all reloaded to dethrone the Heat, below are three reasons why the Heat should dominate the regular season on their way to more than 70 wins.
The More Things Change…
The Heat have retained the key pieces of a team that has made it to the NBA Finals for three consecutive years. This kind of continuity and success simply doesn’t exist in today’s modern league. With an innate familiarity that has been developed through long practices and even longer postseason runs, the Heat play a fluid, interconnected style of basketball that simply flows. As other top teams undergo widespread change (as in the Brooklyn Nets) or look to integrate new players (the Indiana Pacers, New York Knicks and even the Bulls fit the bill), the rapport shared by the Big 3 and their stellar supporting cast should translate to extra wins during the season.
Home is Where the Heart Is
On paper, the Eastern Conference seems to be very talented – at least among the leading contenders to reach the Finals. According to the Bleacher Report’s Ethan Skolnick, Heat forward Chris Bosh gave his forecast on the Conference race earlier this week:
“Right now, the East is very top heavy. With that said, there’s a lot of teams that feel they can really make a move, get into the playoff race. For the most part, it’s the New York teams, Indiana, Chicago and us, and we’re going to be duking it out all season.”
While other teams are content to chase a final playoff spot, the Heat’s annual goal is to win the championship. This goal is more attainable if home court advantage can be maintained during the postseason. Critical games in both the Eastern Conference Finals and NBA Finals took place in Miami, and both resulted in Heat wins. The championship is still the ultimate destination, but the daily grind of the regular season – and beating out the would-be challengers for home court – helps you get there in comfort.
A Team for the Ages
The Heat has gone largely unrecognized as a historically great team. Much of the limelight shines on superstars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, focusing on their individual successes and failures. By challenging the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls as the only club to surpass 70 regular season victories, that accomplishment would be seen as a collective achievement.
For evidence of how this change of perspective would take place, look no further than last season’s 27-game win streak. As the media shifted their focus onto team success, it became evident to NBA fans on the periphery that these wins could not be achieved without the contributions of role players like Ray Allen, Shane Battier, and even the newly-signed Chris Andersen. In fact, Andersen particularly seemed to embody the team ethic. With his constant energy and hard-fought rebounds, his willingness to do the dirty work fascinated fans as they followed the Heat’s pursuit of the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers’ record of 33 consecutive victories.
This team has consistently shown that it requires extra motivation to reach a higher level of performance. Pundits have called it the “on/off” switch while the team’s fans grow frustrated by this lethargic approach. Now, with the goal of reaching this historic milestone, the Heat will still be focused on winning a title but this incentive will reap rewards during the regular season and beyond.