Who Has the Best Odds to Beat the Heat?
No one is saying Game 5 is a gimme for LeBron James and company, but there’s no doubt the Nets are in trouble after losing a hard-fought Game 4, 102-96. The Heat have shown in these playoffs they can win several different ways, and even while the Nets look to pull the series back to Brooklyn, the question begins to sneak in: who can beat the Heat?
A quick look at the 2014 NBA playoffs odds shows that the Heat continue to be favored in every game, home or away, while also being the prohibitive favorite to take home their third-straight NBA Championship.
So who can step to them? Here’s a look at three teams that could push the Big Three to the brink in 2014.
The Brooklyn Nets
It’s not over yet folks. While Brooklyn’s dominant Game 3 victory was obviously encouraging, their performance in Game 4 performance might actually have been a better indication of the way the team needs to play to beat Miami.
In Game 3 the Nets shot an unsustainable 53% from the field and an outrageous 60% from three – numbers that would beat any team, any night. In Game 4, Brooklyn shot 44% and 23%, respectively, and the game came down to the final minute, even with James scoring a silly 49 points.
The level of defense, hustle, and rebounding the Nets brought in Game 4 is sustainable, and if they can bring it consistently, this series could go longer than most expect.
San Antonio Spurs
The Western Conference has been a dogfight, with all four remaining teams showing weaknesses at times. The Spurs remain the class of the field however, and history has shown Tim Duncan’s team can hang with the Heat in the Finals. Their seven game series in last year’s finals was a classic (check out the NBA’s video recap here), featuring four games (including game 7) in which the Spurs held the Heat to under 100 points.
After a tight series against an underrated Dallas Mavericks team, the Spurs have shown in their dismissal of the Trail Blazers how strong they are on both ends of the court.
Los Angeles Clippers
Perhaps the best hope to beat the Heat may not even make their Conference Finals. The Clippers’ ability to beat you down low or from the perimeter may be unmatched in the league, and that versatility is critical to being able to stay with the crafty Heat. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin have had monster games in these playoffs, and the team’s ability to run with the Heat would limit Miami’s deadly transition play.
Perhaps the tipping point however would be Doc Rivers’ coaching. The man knows how to game plan and undoubtedly learned a lot from the Clips’ two close loses to the Heat this season. If the Clippers can escape the Thunder (and Spurs, for that matter), they could well be the team that ends the Heat’s quest for three championships in a row.
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