With the NBA regular season ending, which team has the best chance of knocking off the defending champion Heat in the playoffs?
By Melissa Isaacson
While it may lack in imagination, picking the Thunder as the team with the best chance of knocking off the Heat for the NBA title makes up in logic.
The Thunder have improved every season in their brief history, and after reaching the Finals against Miami last year only to fall 4-1, they are the most likely to return and give it a try again.
After trading sixth man James Harden to the Rockets before the season began, even Thunder fans were in doubt. But as long as Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook stay healthy and they tighten up defensively, which they will naturally do in the postseason, their explosiveness on offense puts them in better position than anyone to beat the Heat.
By Sarah Spain
It's tough to imagine anyone beating LeBron James and this Heat team once they kick into postseason gear, but I said the same about Britney Griner and Baylor before the women's NCAA tournament, and we all know how that worked out.
The team that seems most suited to serve Miami an upset is the Knicks, who took three of the teams' four meetings this season. If New York can beat the Heat on the boards, take advantage of Miami's poor perimeter defense and make someone other than LeBron James or Dwyane Wade beat them, they've got a chance. Of course, Carmelo Anthony will need to be lights-out; Tyson Chandler, Kenyon Martin and Rasheed Wallace will need to come back healthy and ready to battle inside, and the Knicks will have to shoot well from beyond the arc.
Can the Heat really be beat? I learned my lesson from Baylor and this time I'm gonna say, "We have to wait and see!"
By Kate Fagan
The San Antonio Spurs -- that's it. I don't see any team in the Eastern Conference that can beat the Heat. If the New York Knicks can get past the Boston Celtics in the opening round -- and that's a significant "if" -- I see a Heat-Knicks matchup in the Eastern Conference finals. But I don't see any way, at all, the Knicks can beat Miami in a seven-game series. Maybe New York wins a game, two at most, and then the Heat advance to the NBA Finals. Where they meet the Spurs. And win in six games.
By Graham Hays
Is Louisville available? Not the one coached by Rick Pitino. I want the one with Jeff Walz drawing up the game plan and Shoni Schimmel and Antonita Slaughter chucking in 3-pointers from midcourt. But if that's not an option, I'll say the Grizzlies.
I don't pay much attention to the NBA, and yet even I keep hearing people say that for every other way they're great, the Heat are not exactly loaded with post depth. That reputation seems supported by the defending champs checking in at No. 21 in rebound margin, just ahead of the Suns and Raptors and just behind the Cavaliers and Wizards.
Without claiming exhaustive research, a quick look at the past 10 seasons finds the eventual champion usually ranked somewhere in the top 10 in rebound margin and never in the bottom third of the league. So if I'm going to bet against the Heat based on interior vulnerabilities, give me a team with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph to exploit them. Plus, the Grizzlies split the regular-season series with the Heat, winning comfortably at home and trailing by just a point in the final minute in Miami. Now all they have to do is somehow find a way through the Western Conference.