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Heat Clearly Appears to be Finals Bound in East

Heat_BullsWe are not even through with the first round of the NBA Playoffs but we can already proclaim the Miami Heat the team to beat in the East. They have all but run over the Charlotte Bobcats in taking a 3-0 lead in their first round best-of-seven series. They have also watched the #1 seeded Indiana Pacers struggle mightily against the number eight seeded Atlanta Hawks in a series that will go at least six games and the third seeded Toronto Raptors go down 2-1 to the six seed Brooklyn Nets and the four seed Chicago Bulls go down 2-1 to the number five Washington Wizards.

The Heat will likely sweep their series and be able to take a break while the other top seeds in the East will need at least six games to close their series out. That’s the worst case scenario. The best case is some of those top seeds won’t even be there for the second round. The Pacers did wrestle home court advantage back from the Hawks in a tough 91-88 win. But do we feel confident in ruling the Hawks out of the series? Not yet. Atlanta has already won a game at Indiana in the series. What’s to say they cannot do it again?

In the East’s other two series, there is not much of a drop off between getting the Nets instead of the Raptors or the Wizards instead of the Bulls. Neither of those should be considered a big upset no matter if the lower seed team wins. But what does matter is that both could go the full seven games giving the Heat a big advantage should they be able to close Charlotte out in four.

Miami is getting the winner of the Nets-Raptors series. A Nets-Heat series would be very intriguing considering the Nets swept the Heat in the season series 4-0 and also the Kevin Garnett/Paul Pierce vs Ray Allen angle. But even if the Nets do have the Heat figured out, a rested Heat teams against a tired Nets team likely negates that. The bottom line is there is one Eastern Conference team that looks like they have flipped the switch for the playoffs, and that is the three time defending champion Miami Heat. That should have the rest of the teams in the Eastern Conference very worried.

Not only is Miami up 3-0, they have won by scores of 99-88, 101-97 (a game not really as close as the score would have you believe) and 98-85. They have been stifling on defense, allowing the Bobcats to break 90 only once in the series. If the Heat continue to defend, with Lebron James, Dwayne Wade and company on offense, they will be nearly impossible to jeep out of the NBA Finals for the fourth year in a row.

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