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Analyzing the Heat's competition this upcoming season: Is the age of rivalry dead?

USA TODAY Sports

A simple rule of science states that for every force there is an equal and opposite reaction, but this rule of physics that keeps everything in check seems to have vanished from an NBA perspective. Or at least it seems so.

At this moment in time, there is no question that the Miami Heat are the best basketball team in the world. While it took a great effort to win their third NBA title, (with the San Antonio Spurs pushing them to seven games) the stars aligned and LeBron James led his squadron consisting of talented players and superstars to another ring for the second subsequent year.

However, looking back on this seven game series, you could hardly call the Spurs Miami's rival. They are a fantastic team, but there was hardly any animosity on the court during the series. While the flopping was consistent, there was no fighting or trash talking and it makes one wonder if there's a rival for the Heat that remains in this league? If you would have asked me about Miami's rivals before Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were traded to Brooklyn, I would have simply answered, "Boston." When games were played between the two clubs, there was anger on the floor at all times. There were even certain instances when it appeared that Pierce and LeBron hated each other with such a fiery passion that it fueled their games to the maximum. In the last three years, Miami vs. Boston games were some of the most fun games any basketball fan could encounter, but those days have come and gone.

So who can it be? Who can take the place as Miami's next rival? It won't be Oklahoma, or New York. However, the greatest hate of Miami seems to seeping out of Indiana and Brooklyn. If one analyzes the Brooklyn roster, they would most certainly see a contending team with two Hall of Famers and three Heat enemies. Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett as well as Jason Terry that have been thorns in Miami's side for years and that extreme dislike isn't easily forgotten. The blood sweat and tears on a basketball court can't be washed up-it stains; and while it's easy to slap a black uniform on these players the loathing of Miami is and will forever be consistent.

Indiana is a different beast. They've made improvements and have come close at times to defeating the star-studded Miami Roster, but haven't yet accomplished that goal. They're strong, and fearless and until Brooklyn was revamped in the past weeks, I would have told you that they are the only threat to the Heat in the Eastern Conference. Paul George and Roy Hibbert are both stars in their own right, and the fact that they're so young makes one fearful about their potential. Indiana's roster battled fearlessly over the course of seven games, and it will no doubt be interesting to see how they return this postseason.

In spite of this, there is a wildcard: the Chicago Bulls. While overlooked last season due to the absence of Derrick Rose, one can fathom that this will be a contending team in the coming season. While not the same team Miami faced in the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals, they have the tools to frustrate the Heat. It is difficult to predict the strength in which Rose will return from injury, but it will be fascinating to witness if his comeback can breathe life into the Bulls and close the gap between the two bitter rivals.

The Miami Heat are the best team in the world right now, but their enemies are starting to grow restless making one wonder, how long can the fire in Miami burn?

By Brandon DiPerno

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