Thursday, January 5, 2012

Establishing a Championship Pedigree

January 5, 2012

Seven games into the NBA's 2011-12 season and the Miami Heat have already begun establishing their dominance in the league. Miami is building upon last season's success with a quick 6-1 start, mostly overwhelming their opponents on their journey toward the promised land. However, it took a season's worth of grueling criticism, an agonizing Finals loss, and a long offseason of reflection to push the Heat to this point. Fortunately for Miami these are just the stages of building a championship pedigree.

Can the Heat finish close games? How will they manage three superstar egos? Is Erik Spoelstra fit to coach this team? These are just some of the tough questions Miami faced last season, all while making an impressive playoff run that ended just two games short of a title victory. This season the expectations are greater but the team's growth is equally great. They come in with one year of chemistry under their belt, a better understanding of their offensive potential and a tremendous thirst for redemption. That sounds like a solid recipe for success to me.

What the Heat endured last season can't be compared to anything else in NBA history, perhaps even all of sports history for that matter. They were thrown "Into the Fire" and are emerging with muscles flexing (a la Alonzo Mourning).

LeBron James is averaging almost 30 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists to start off the season, which rivals his numbers from the good ole' Cleveland days. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have also elevated their games; Wade on defense (averaging two blocks per game), Bosh on offense (averaging about 19 points a night). And the rest of the squad is pitching in nicely in their respective roles, with Udonis Haslem, Norris Cole, James Jones, and Shane Battier providing the bulk of reserve support.

What it adds up to is the Heat averaging 108 points per game while they hold opponents to 95 points per game. That's about a 13-point margin of victory each game. The season may be young but those stats speak volumes about Miami, especially when compared to last year's 9-8 start. Not only are they closing out close games but they're also pressing the gas when taking large leads. They've come a long way.

All in all, Miami is looking good, damn good. What remains in question is whether they can keep it up throughout the regular season and carry it over into the playoffs, ultimately landing them back in the Finals. Ah, but this is the beauty of sports and the reason why we watch.

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