The Miami Heat face the Celtics for the last time this season Wednesday, meaning it could be the final time LeBron James and Chris Bosh are in a Miami uniform against Boston.
James, Bosh and Dwayne Wade all can opt out of their contracts this offseason. Wade is unlikely to do so because he’s an old 32 and has had injury problems. He’s one of the greatest players in franchise history and will undoubtedly retire as a member of the Heat.
LeBron and Bosh are expected to opt out because they took a small discount when each signed with Miami in the summer of 2010. James has said he “can’t imagine” leaving Miami, but he also wants to win many more titles and could decide Miami isn’t the best place to do so depending on Wade’s long-term health and what Bosh decides. Bosh might prefer being the superstar on a team instead of the No. 3 guy.
Cleveland, where the Heat visited Tuesday, believes it has a shot to lure James back as it has a young All-Star to pair James with in point guard Kyrie Irving.
However, it’s hard to imagine the three breaking up if they win a third straight championship this summer, and they remain the 9-4 favorites at Bovada to do so.
The 2014 playoffs could be their toughest challenge in the Big 3 era. Indiana (7-2) has a three-game lead over Miami for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. The West has four very good teams in Oklahoma City (4-1) San Antonio (11-2), the Los Angeles Clippers (7-1) and Houston (14-1).
Miami hasn’t looked all that title worthy of late, having lost five of its past seven games. Losing in Houston, San Antonio and Chicago, as Miami did, is understandable. But Miami was beaten 96-95 at home by Brooklyn on Wednesday — the Nets are 3-0 against the Heat this season — and the Heat were stunned 111-107 by a bad Denver team on Friday. The Nuggets hadn’t beaten a team with a winning record on the road since January 15. Miami hasn’t been great in close games overall, going 12-10 in one-possession games in the final minute.
Since his career-high 61-point game against Charlotte on March 3, LeBron hasn’t topped 24 points. In addition, two of Miami’s top 3-point shooters, Ray Allen and Shane Battier, are struggling. Allen, 38, is averaging a career-worst 9.4 points and shooting 37.9 percent from long range. Battier was never a big scorer but is hitting only 34.2 percent from long range. Allen could retire after the year and Battier has said he “probably” would.
Perhaps the Heat can simply flip a switch when it matters, as Sunday they appeared to do so in beating the visiting Rockets 113-104 when Allen exploded for a season-high 25 points to move to No. 21 on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. Miami and Boston have split two meetings, both in south Florida.
The Celtics’ game Friday in Brooklyn will have Live Betting. The Nets have been a different club in 2014, going 23-10. They have lost just twice in their past nine entering this week, one of them a 91-84 defeat at TD Garden on March 7 in which Boston never trailed.