Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
> Are you more convinced, or less, from what you’ve seen in the playoffs, that the Heat can/will threepeat? Why?
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: As convinced as ever, which means, as convinced as when I picked them at the start of the season to three-peat. Haven’t seen enough from any of the competition, or enough that worries me about the Heat, to come off that pick. I’m expecting Spurs-Heat II in The Finals and I can grasp the Hollywood story line of a San Antonio redemption from last year’s Game 6. But Miami has the best player on the planet and, even if he’s more in Cleveland mode now, lugging some less helpful teammates, I think that’s enough.
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: My feelings haven’t changed from the start of the playoffs or most of the season. Can they? Of course. They’ve been to The Finals three years in a row, have won twice, have the institutional knowledge how to get it done. And they have that LeBron fellow. Will they? Isn’t that why we play the games, even the last 28 seconds of Game 6? If both are at the peak of their games, my Finals pick is the same as last year — Spurs in 6.
Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: Honestly, I can’t say I’ve been swayed one way or the other. The level of competition in the East, including this somewhat resuscitated version of the Pacers (Game 5, gulp!) has given the Heat a golden road to get back to The Finals. But I also see vulnerabilities that the Spurs, Thunder or Clippers can all exploit. Still the King is the King. LeBron James might not have won the MVP trophy, but he can still dictate a game like no other player in the league.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Slightly more convinced. I was among those convinced at the start of the playoffs that the champion would come from the West. But now, after the demolition derby of a first round in the West, when even the best teams got threatened, it is fair to wonder again about the tough path to The Finals in contrast to the comparatively easy run for the Heat. If Miami does not get the challenge from the Pacers we spent most of the regular season waiting for, then it is another bonus for the defending champs.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Less convinced, mostly because it’s becoming clear that postseason Dwyane Wade is the same as regular season Dwyane Wade. Maybe he’s got another gear for the last two rounds, but we haven’t seen much from him thus far. Shane Battier has also taken a clear step backward from last season and not having Mike Miller as that extra shooter hurts. LeBron James’ supporting cast is simply not as good as it was in previous years and Miami’s defense hasn’t been very consistent either.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: They haven’t shown me any reason to waver in my belief that they are more than capable of getting back to The Finals and complete their three-peat mission. And it has as much to do with the competition as it does with the Heat. Has anyone in the East final four done anything to convince you that they are ready to snatch the Heat’s throne? Neither Indiana nor Washington strikes fear into the hearts of Heat fans. And the Nets are giving a game effort, but clearly are on the verge of extinction this season. So they needed a monster 49-point effort from LeBron the other night. Big deal. The Heat remain the favorites until someone knocks them down for at least an 8-count (as the Spurs did in Game 6 of The Finals last year … and remember, they got back to their feet and won that fight anyway).
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com All Ball Blog: I realized while I was sitting there in Barclays Center during Game 4 of the Nets/Heat series that I’ve been in attendance at six of Miami’s eight playoff games so far this postseason. Heading into the playoffs, I picked Miami to come out of the East almost by default. But after spending so much time around the Heat players and coaching staff over the last three weeks, I’m more convinced than ever that the Heat are going to three-peat. For the most part they’ve looked brilliant — moving the ball, defending well, getting clutch shots and performances from a variety of players. I know LeBron’s Cleveland-esque offensive resurrection in Game 4 might have scared some people off, but to me it was just proof that even when nothing else is working, the King can still carry this squad. Maybe even to a title.