The playoffs are finally here, or as Dwyane Wade would refer to it: "the real season." At last it’s time for the compelling games that bring out the very best play from the very best players. A time when experienced veterans separate themselves from the raw young talents making their first or second playoff appearances. It’s also a time when fans become absolutely rabid, attacking every entity that dare cross the line of fire when referring to their team. Whether it’s beat writers from opposing teams, television personalities or even refs (looking you square in the face, Joey Crawford), it's the fans who are the quickest to overreact during the always intense playoff season.
As the Heat enter their fourth playoff run as presently constituted there is an urge to rush the process, to take things for granted. This Heat team is coming off three consecutive Finals appearances, back-to-back world championships, and are winners of 11 of the 12 playoff series they have been a part of since LeBron and Bosh have joined the team. Make no mistake, although the Heat have accomplished great things in past years there is nothing given during the playoffs.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said it best the other night when he talked about the "storm coming." The stakes are high, maybe higher than they have ever been before. You don’t just win three consecutive titles by accident. There is no doubt that the Heat will be raising their game come Sunday, Game 1 of their opening round series (3:30 ET, ABC). But it won’t be the Finals. Not even close. The Heat will have to win 12 times against three different Eastern Conference opponents before those games come around. Still the games are obviously important and meaningful not only to advance but to create and retain good habits and practice them.
Each playoff game, from the first game of the first round until the Larry O’Brien trophy is hoisted, brings another chance to experience the greatness that the best player in the world (that’s LeBron James, in case you’re just joining us) brings to the court every single night, another chance for us to be wowed by Chef Dwyane Wade as he slices and dices through the lane, and of course many more chances to watch big shot Chris Bosh drain KaBosh’s from downtown. This playoff run will be all about mental toughness, for both players and fans. Not every game will bring the nail-biting, rage inducing, keyboard smashing stress that 28.2 brought us, not every game will be a win for the Heat, not every outcome favorable and not every call correct. It’s the longevity of the process of the playoffs that make it so special when LeBron James is raising the gold and silver Finals MVP trophy for a third consecutive year, while Dwyane Wade changes his nickname from "three" to "four."
So, as the Heat begin the treacherous journey through the physical Eastern Conference with a bright red target stapled to their backs, it is important to remember to truly cherish the moments to come. The ups and downs, the wins and losses, the streaks and the funks are all a part of the winding road the post season brings. There have only been three other times a team has won three consecutive titles since the NBA-ABA merger and only two teams have done it. What you’re watching on a nightly basis doesn’t just happen.
This team is special, this season is special and it has been so special to watch it all unfold. Its teams like this that create legends, countless stories and an unbelievable amount of memories.
I know I’ll be watching every single bounce and basket of this Miami Heat playoff run, as I know most of you will be doing as well. Don’t let it pass you by while you were too busy waiting for what would happen next.