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Are the Miami Heat serious championship contenders?

The Miami Heat’s free agency pickups of Chris Bosh and LeBron James had the entire world debating on how many NBA championships those two players along with Dwyane Wade could bring to South Beach. The discussions then translated from how many to how soon…could this be the year?

When the season first started, some began to laugh at the Heat because they started to a 9-8 record with two superstars, James and Wade, and a perennial all-star in Bosh. The team quickly became the league’s villain not only because Miami “stole” LeBron from the Cleveland Cavaliers in “The Decision”, they had a championship celebration before they played a single NBA game together and they began the season dazed and confused.

Also, it didn’t help Miami’s cause to have a dismal record against winning teams including a 3-7 record against the top teams in the Eastern Conference: Chicago Bulls, Boston Celtics and the Orlando Magic. The Heat lost all three games against the Bulls, won two against the Magic and didn’t beat the Celtics until the third last game of the regular season.

Now, it seems to be a different story as the three stars seem to have learned how to play together while integrating the roster’s role players. Can they beat the likes of the Celtics and the Bulls to make it to the NBA Finals or are they a year or two off?

I can never count out players of this magnitude because the NBA is a players, not always team, league and the Heat have three of the league’s top 20 players in their starting lineup. On the other hand, the other players on the roster don’t always show up and leave the three stars to play against entire teams. Either way the Heat still won 58 games and advanced to the playoffs as the second best team in the east.

The first round playoff series between the Heat and the Philadelphia 76ers gives the impression Miami could do anything since they’ve whooped on Philly in the first two games.

But, the 76ers are not a great team. Their highest scorer Elton Brand, only averaged 15 points per game during the regular season while James, Wade and Bosh all averaged more, 25, 23 and 15. The Heat should be able to sweep the 76ers and move on to face either the Celtics or the New York Knicks.

This is when the championship contender issue becomes post season relevant. The three seed Celtics beat the Heat three times during the season and the six seed Knicks didn’t beat the Heat until the end of the season, after Carmelo Anthony came to Madison Square Garden. Miami could beat or lose to either one of these teams depending on whether or not the Celtics play healthy and the Knicks play together instead of Anthony running around jacking up shots to go 5-0f-18 from the field similar to Sunday’s game 1 against Boston.

Although the Heat didn’t have the legendary regular season I thought they could have, the Heat are a legitimate title contending team at the moment.

The Celtics are hurt, the Knicks consist of Anthony and Amare Stoudemire and the Bulls are young, inexperienced and less talented. Two of the three Bulls victories against Miami were decided by less than five points. Maybe, just maybe, the Heat can pull of what most people don’t want the villains to do, go to the finals.

It will be fun to see how the playoffs pan out, but I think it’s safe to say the NBA fan base will rejoice when Miami is knocked out of the post season. When that is, only time will tell.