Photo Credit: Jesse D. Garrabrant
While the 2013-2014 season didn’t end the same way as the previous two seasons did for the Miami HEAT, there were still plenty of positives to take away, as the HEAT became just the third franchise to reach four consecutive NBA Finals.
The journey to that fourth straight NBA Finals, as always, had its ups and downs and was filled with plenty of great moments along the way.
Miami started its title defense at home against the Chicago Bulls on a night where the team was presented with their rings and saw a third championship banner raised. As usual, there was no shortage of drama as Derrick Rose made his long-awaited return after a 2012 knee injury. The HEAT defeated the Bulls and used it as a springboard to a 12-2 November, which included wins over the Raptors, Clippers, Mavericks and Suns.
In December, the HEAT split two games with the Indiana Pacers, with each team winning on their home floor. Despite what was turning out to be a solid campaign from the HEAT, the Pacers led the East for a majority of the regular season.
Later in the month, Miami faced the Portland Trailblazers on December 28. LeBron James missed the game due to a few minor injuries (ankle and groin), but Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh more than made up for his absence. Bosh scored a season-high 37 points, including the game winning 3-pointer off a fantastic pass from Wade, and grabbed 10 rebounds in a 108-107 victory. Bosh was fired up as he silenced the crowd at Moda Center and was mobbed by his teammates, primarily LeBron James, after Portland called a timeout.
Another triumphant moment for an entirely different reason occurred just a few weeks later in mid-January when the HEAT matched up with the Wizards in Washington. Miami had gotten off to a slow start in the first half and found itself down double-digits. Then, midway through the second quarter, after more than four years since his last regular season game action, Greg Oden entered the game. The HEAT ended up losing the contest, but to see Oden come back from multiple injuries and produce, six points and two rebounds in eight minutes, was very encouraging. Throughout the season, HEAT Head Coach Erik Spoelstra praised Oden for how hard he worked to get back and play again in the NBA.
After some marquee matchups against the Spurs and Thunder in late January, Miami started February winning four of its first five matchups entering a contest with the Golden State Warriors just before the All-Star break. In what was a tightly contested matchup throughout, LeBron James hit the game-winning 3-pointer over Andre Iguodala with 0.2 left to defeat the Warriors 111-110. James had been going for the win the whole time, as Erik Spoelstra elected not to call a timeout before the HEAT’s last possession. James finished with 36 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists.
After the All-Star break, the HEAT closed February on a four-game winning streak. After extending the streak against the Magic on March 1, Miami entered March 3 against the Charlotte Bobcats in what seemed like just another game on the schedule.
It ended up being far more than that.
LeBron James had one of those nights where the hoop must’ve looked like an ocean. James started to really get hot from downtown in the third quarter, as he sank shot after shot. He connected on his first eight 3-pointers and used a 25-point third quarter to tally a career-high and franchise-best 61 points. Perhaps the most impressive thing to takeaway was that James shot an unbelievably efficient 22-33 from the field in the 124-107 victory. It was indeed a special night from a very special player.
Otherwise, the month of March ended up being one of the toughest in recent memory, with 18 games in 31 days (nine of which were on the road) and five back-to-backs. Still, the HEAT managed a 10-8 record in March and won their final three contests.
With just a few games left in the regular season, the HEAT found themselves in a showdown with the Indiana Pacers for control of the Eastern Conference on April 11. In what was a sign of things to come in the postseason, Miami defeated Indiana 98-86 behind 36 points from LeBron James. The Pacers wound up nabbing the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, but the HEAT would get the last laugh.
The 2014 NBA Playoffs began with a familiar foe for the HEAT, the Charlotte Bobcats. In what was an otherwise wacky first round across the league, Miami swept Charlotte in a series that was closer than it indicated.
Despite tearing his left plantar fascia in the first quarter of Game 1, Al Jefferson continued to fight and put on a valiant effort for the rest of the series. The duo of Jefferson and Kemba Walker brought everything to Miami, but throughout the series the HEAT forced the Bobcats into costly turnovers.
LeBron James led the charge for the HEAT, averaging 30 points and eight boards per game in the opening round. Additionally, Dwyane Wade was instrumental on both ends of the floor in the first two games of the series at home. Chris Bosh finally closed the door on the Bobcats with clutch mid-range buckets in Game 4.
Next up for the HEAT were the Brooklyn Nets, a team they didn’t beat during the regular season. Naturally, all the talk leading up to the second round matchup was predicated around that, but LeBron James made sure to make that talk obsolete. James averaged 30 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game in the series, but he also received help from his teammates. Ray Allen was key in a Game 2 run which ultimately led to a HEAT victory and Chris Bosh picked his spots throughout the series against Brooklyn.
Joe Johnson was a thorn in Miami’s side pretty much all series, and in particular hit shots at what seemed like an unrealistic clip in Game 5. Dwyane Wade did his best to match him and was on fire in the first half of Game 5, scoring 20 of his 28 points before halftime. He made quick, smart decisions with the ball and was locked-in all game. Still, it came down to the championship-level defense the HEAT displayed throughout the series to finally finish off the Nets.
Needing to shift the series back to Brooklyn, Johnson put it all on the line, but again it was James and Allen who answered the call. Up two with a shade over four seconds to go, James and Allen brought pressure to Joe Johnson and made sure he couldn’t even get a shot off as time expired. James was so pumped after the series-clinching play that he went to the broadcaster’s table and celebrated with the fans.
The fans were likely looking forward to the HEAT’s next matchup.
For the second-consecutive year, the HEAT faced the Pacers for a chance to play in the NBA Finals. This time around it would be different since the Pacers earned the No. 1 seed, and thus had home court advantage. Indiana started off quickly and defeated Miami in Game 1 thanks to superb outside shooting. Despite the loss, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James played very well in the series opener. Both continued their high level of play and helped the HEAT rattle off three straight wins in the series. Chris Bosh also emerged and came up huge in Games 4 and 6.
Wade’s well-documented maintenance program definitely paid off, as he had a very solid Conference Finals in which he averaged 19.8 points, 4.7 assists and 4.3 rebounds.
It took a collective effort from the Big 3 to defeat an elite Pacers team in six games.
In what was another rematch, the HEAT and Spurs met each other once again in the NBA Finals. After a Game 1 victory for the Spurs, LeBron James led the charge in a Game 2 HEAT victory. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh also made some clutch plays down the stretch to ensure the victory.
From there, the Spurs would win three straight and ultimately win the 2014 NBA Championship. Despite the disappointing finish, it still was an entertaining and exciting 2013-2014 campaign for the HEAT in which they became just the third franchise to make it to four straight NBA Finals.