With their Game 4 overtime win over the Celtics, the Heat took a huge step toward following through on their ridiculous welcome party with an NBA title, right?
Not only do they have two chances to close out the Celtics in South Beach, where the Lakers may already be vacationing, but they've been able to watch top-seeded Chicago go from unimpressive against the 37-45 Pacers to downright mediocre against a Hawks team that so mailed in the regular season that Joe Johnson basically admitted it on national television after winning Game 1.
Add it all up, and America will probably have to cringe as the Heat win the East.
After their big overtime win, however, Miami suffered a triple-overtime loss that may have been just as significant.
With the Grizzlies handing Oklahoma City a lifeline — one that will likely lead to a Thunder series victory — Miami now has to face the prospect of matching up with either Dallas or OKC in the finals. Both, in truth, are terrible matchups for Miami, while tipping off against Memphis would have been a slightly more difficult version of the Philadelphia series. The Grizz, scrappy as they may be, simply don't have the talent or scoring to match up with Miami, but that series just isn't in the cards, thanks to OKC's Game 4 soul crusher.
If Memphis had won in triple OT, they would not only be huge favorites to make the Western Conference finals, but, given their 3-1 regular season record against Dallas, their great perimeter defending that would limit Dallas' barrage of threes and the reality that Dirk Nowitzki would be given a task that he's simply not suited for (banging with Zach Randolph), picking Memphis to make the Finals over Dallas would be sensible.
Dallas matching up with Miami, on the other hand, is a different story. Dallas comfortably beat Miami in both of their regular-season meetings, and with Tyson Chandler defending the rim, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade might end up taking a good number of jump shots — which is exactly what you want them to do.
Add in the 2006 revenge factor, the comedic idea of Chris Bosh defending Dirk, the coaching mismatch, the fact that Dallas' bench should be able make a mockery of the Heat's, and that while the Heat are absolutely putrid in close games, Dallas is as good of a fourth quarter team as there is, and it's hard not to conclude that as talented as Miami is, facing Dallas is an uphill battle for the Heat. In fact, it's really a far tougher matchup than the Lakers would've been, considering regular-season results and Los Angeles' total dearth of perimeter defense.
But given OKC's 3OT win, Dallas may not get there. Serge Ibaka may have been put on this earth specifically to defend Nowitzki, Russell Westbrook is about 100 times as fast as Jason Kidd, and — like every other team in the NBA — the Mavs won't be able to defend Kevin Durant. That potential matchup has dogfight written all over it, and if the Thunder come out on top, they'll present nothing but problems for the Heat as well.
Simply put, Durant, Westbrook, Wade and James basically cancel each other out. They'll all expend a ton of energy trying to defend one another, and nobody will succeed. So, then who do you give the advantage to?
The most cohesive team in the NBA, or the team awaiting Bosh's next emotional breakdown?
The team with a bench that may be second best in the NBA, behind Dallas', or the team that gets giddy when their entire bench scores 20 points?
Scotty Brooks or Erik Spoelstra?
The team that the entire country will be urging on, or the team reviled by just about everybody outside of South Florida?
The team that has the heart to come back from down 18 to win in triple overtime, or the team that hits a game-winner about as often solar eclipses occur?
You know the answers.
Miami may be the most talented team in the playoffs, and their passage through the East now looks like relatively smooth sailing. Still, that doesn't mean that America won't get to see what it's been waiting a year for — LeBron James again a loser, watching a fellow superstar win that first NBA title that he took his talents to South Beach for.
Will the Heat win the NBA title? Leave your thoughts below.