Playoff Contention: Miami Heat
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The Miami Heat truly found itself during its 27-game win streak from February 3 through March 25.
Yes, the Heat became NBA champions last June and have had much success this decade, reaching two NBA Finals since the core of this championship team was first assembled in Summer 2010.
But it hasn't been until Year 3 that we've seen the Heat start to dominate the opposition.
Miami didn't have the best record in the NBA in 2012-13 or 2011-12, nor was the Heat even the best in its own conference.
Now, with a small-ball lineup that allows its best players to be on the floor a majority of the game, Heat players individually and collectively are reaching their potential.
With Bosh playing center, he has become the best long-2 shooter in the game, making 52 percent of 16-to-23-footers.
While playing more of a post-up point power forward role, LeBron James has taken his game into efficiency levels never reached before, thanks in part to playing alongside the NBA's smartest wing ever, Shane Battier.
Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers form one of the best backcourt duos in the NBA, displaying the wisdom and aggressiveness it takes to be clutch in today's NBA.
This is definitely Miami's best team ever, which is high praise considering the Heat won NBA championships in both 2012 and 2006.
The aforementioned Fast Five lineup that the Heat first broke out during the 2012 NBA Finals was a killer quintet during the 27-win streak with Chalmers, Wade, Battier, James and Bosh scoring a +48.7 net rating--and 142.6 offensive rating--in 85 minutes during that time. Put Ray Allen in for Battier during that streak and you have a similar +46.8 net rating and 132.1 offensive rating in 46 minutes. That's Miami at their scary best and potentially the lineups Coach Spoelstra is storing away for the playoffs--the combos that no one has an answer for. On the whole of the regular season, Miami has most often rolled with the combo of its starting crew of Chalmers, Wade, James, Bosh and Udonis Haslem. That quintet has a 11.9 net rating in 688 minutes, which ranks third in the NBA for units with 216-plus minutes together. For what it is worth, the aforementioned Fast Five combos also have great season-long numbers in 2012-13, with the Battier-plus-core-four unit scoring a +19.6 net rating in 300 minutes, while the Allen-plus-core-four unit scoring a +20.0 net rating in 134 minutes.
THE 5,000 MINUTE RULE
The Miami Heat revalidated The 5,000 Minute Rule in the 2012 NBA Playoffs when James and Bosh joined The Heat's 5G Club and then proved once again that most championship teams have five-plus players together for at least 5,000 minutes before they win a championship. Their current 5G Club includes Dwyane Wade (28,911 minutes with the Heat), Haslem (21,797), Chalmers (11,420), James (10,051), Bosh (8356) and Joel Anthony (7232).
LORD OF THE RINGS
Wade won his first of two rings as the 2006 Finals MVP for the Heat's 2006 NBA championship team, while Haslem also collected a ring as a starter for that squad. Allen himself got a ring as a member of the Celtics' 2008 NBA championship squad. And of course, Coach Erik Spoelstra and 11 members of the current 2012-13 Heat collected 2012 NBA championship rings (Bosh, James, Battier, Wade, Chalmers, Haslem, Joel Anthony, Mike Miller, James Jones, Norris Cole and Juwan Howard).
Hollinger Playoff Odds say Miami has a 53 percent chance to reach the 2013 NBA Finals and 28 percent shot to win the NBA championship; Basketball-Reference says the Heat have a 59 percent shot to reach the 2013 NBA Finals and 31 percent chance to win the title.
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C CHRIS BOSH: 69 games, 33.1 mpg, 16.5 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 19.9 PER, +11.0 Net, +2.7 On/Off
C Udonis Haslem: 69 games, 18.7 mpg, 3.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 9.5 PER, +11.4 Net, +2.1 On/Off
C Chris Andersen: 32 games, 13.5 mpg, 4.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 15.2 PER, +8.6 Net, -5.0 On/Off
C Joel Anthony: 54 games, 8.9 mpg, 0.4 ppg, 0.2 rpg, -0.1 PER, +6.5 Net, -4.1 On/Off
PF Jarvis Varnado: 5 games, 3.8 mpg, 1.7 ppg, 1.2 rpg, 8.6 PER, -15.9 Net, -27.9 On/Off
PF LeBRON JAMES: 72 games, 38.3 mpg, 26.9 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 31.4 PER, 13.5 Net, 16.8 On/Off
PF Rashard Lewis: 45 games, 11.3 mpg, 3.8 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 9.9 PER, -4.4 Net, -16.9 On/Off
PF Juwan Howard: 3 games, 3.3 mpg, 0.7 ppg, 0.7 rpg, 9.2 PER, +2.9 Net, -10.6 On/Off
SF SHANE BATTIER: 65 games, 24.8 mpg, 6.6 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 10.6 PER, +12.4 Net, +4.3 On/Off
SF Mike MIller: 49 games, 12.9 mpg, 3.3 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 10.6 PER, +3.3 Net, -8.2 On/Off
SF James Jones: 29 games, 3.8 mpg, 1.2 ppg, 0.3 rpg, 8.1 PER, +2.8 Net, -7.5 On/Off
SG DWYANE WADE: 66 games, 34.8 mpg, 21.3 ppg, 5.0 apg, 24.2 PER, +12.8 Net, +8.2 On/Off
SG Ray Allen: 70 games, 25.6 mpg, 10.7 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 14.9 PER, +5.8 Net, -8.7 On/Off
PG MARIO CHALMERS: 71 games, 26.7 mpg, 8.5 ppg, 3.4 apg, 13.2 PER, +14.8 Net, +10.3 On/Off
PG Norris Cole: 70 games, 18.5 mpg, 4.8 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 7.5 PER, +3.1 Net, -11.0 On/Off
2011-12 GONE HEAT (.697)
C Ronny Turiaf: 17 games, 16.4 mpg, 3.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 12.3 PER, -2.1 Net, -4.4 On/Off
SG Terrel Harris: 22 games, 14.5 mpg, 3.6 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 6.7 PER, -8.3 Net, -17.2 On/Off
C Dexter Pittman: 35 games, 8.6 mpg, 3.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 10.4 PER, +4.1 Net, -3.4 On/Off
PF Mickell Gladness*: 26 games, 9.7 mpg, 2.2 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 9.5 PER, -19.0 Net, -26.5 On/Off
C Eddy Curry*: 14 games, 5.9 mpg, 2.1 ppg, 0.9 rpg, 3.6 PER, -38.0 Net, -46.4 On/Off
* Heat players that did not play in 2012 NBA Playoffs; returning players in boldface