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A-Z NBA Playoff Guide for Miami Heat fans

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Your go-to source to get up to speed in time for this weekend's start to the postseason

Mike Ehrmann
A is for Atlanta Hawks

They managed to overcome a late season injury involving their best shooter Kyle Korver and thanks to a stodgy New York Knicks, the Hawks find themselves facing the Indiana Pacers. Jeff Teague and Paul Millsap have been in form entering the first round and this is a team that not only loves attempting 3-point shots but they generally make them too. Could have what it takes to rattle Pacers if they carry over their end of season inconsistency.

B is for Brooklyn Nets

The only team to sweep the Heat 4-0 this season probably still don't get the respect they deserve due to the weak Eastern Conference. Knocked out by the Bulls in the first round last season, the Nets come into these playoffs with an improved Paul Pierce, a resurgent Shaun Livingston, and wingman Kevin Garnett is always capable of being a force. Been there and done it before, they apparently want to meet Miami in the second round.

C is for Charlotte Bobcats

To most Heat fans, the Bobcats are an expected 4-0 victory but don't go assuming this team is a walkover despite only entering the playoffs the second time in franchise history. They finished 6th overall in defense meaning they have the potential to interfere with Miami in the paint. They also led the NBA in fewest turnovers committed, which means fewer opportunities for the Heat to get easy transition baskets. Leading Charlotte scorer Al Jefferson and guard Kemba Walker are the ones to watch.

D is for Dallas Mavericks

I could have simply had "D is for Dirk Nowitzki" but that might've upset Monta Ellis. Dallas got the bad end of the coin toss and are set to face the best team in the league, the San Antonio Spurs. This is set up to be a great series and if Nowitzki continuos his dagger throwing, we could perhaps see the number one team get knocked out in the first round. Stranger things have happened, and it's actually happened to Dallas themselves.

E is for Experience

When it comes to making it to the Finals, this could be what gives the team who possess it most, the advantage. Miami, San Antonio and Dallas have this in bucket loads, even the relatively new Nets are brimming with big postseason experience. Could be what lands teams like the Bobcats and Atlanta in hot water.

F is for Fatigue

Week one of the playoffs hasn't even begun, yet many teams have been citing fatigue. Since Miami's woeful stint through March many have already expected them to run out of gas. The team who sidesteps injuries and battles through the grueling eight weeks ahead will be the one hoisting the Larry O'Brien Trophy.

G is for Golden State Warriors

Those out in the Bay recently took a hard hit losing defensive weapon Andrew Bogut before they've even gotten to Game 1. While some believe their match up against the L.A. Clippers will be a quick walk off the plank, they'll be relying on go-to man, Steph Curry to carry the team as he's done for the last two seasons. If he can be helped out by Klay Thompson and Jordan Crawford, they could find themselves defeating the odds.

H is for Houston Rockets

Where we once wondered if this team would come together, instead James Harden and Dwight Howard have both been at the forefront of their respected positions this season. Their match up against the Portland Trail Blazers will be a doozie. If they come off with a win they could find themselves against the Spurs or Mavericks. A Western Conference Final contender however? Probably not.

I is for Indiana Pacers

The Pacers who clinched the East's No. 1 seed now head into the playoffs feeling accomplished knowing how imperative it is to have the home court advantage if they meet Miami. However the Pacers still need to come together as a group. The Danny Granger trade has lead to questioning of leadership amongst the starters and if not corrected in time it could unravel their season's effort.

J is for Jordan

You may have heard of him. Michael Jordan will be in town to oversee his team the Charlotte Bobcats. Now, I hardly expect LeBron to be playing quiet basketball with the man he is compared to very second of everyday, so on that premise I'm tipping James to have a dominate first round performance.

K is for Killer Instinct

It's those moments in the final seconds. The clutch dagger. The game-winning block. A second where one individual can close out a win or a confirm defeat by relying on pure gut instinct. These are the moments that we as fans live for.

L is for Los Angeles Clippers

Nope, not Lakers this time, it's the little brother of L.A making it to the playoffs another year running. While the jury is still out on the best point-guard in the league, Chris Paul can change the ordinary to the extraordinary in the time it takes for one of his stellar passes. Combined with Blake Griffin, this is a team that most have been waiting on to make the Finals. While it probably wont' be this season, they won't let their season go lightly.

M is for Memphis Grizzlies

The Memphis Grizzlies are back in the playoffs. Now home to ex-Heat gunner Mike Miller, the Grizzlies managed to sustain their place in the eight spot at the Phoenix Suns expense in what was a tight run to the finish line. A team with the ability to grind down any opponent, they have earned the right to cause and upset. Don't be surprised if they make noise in the postseason, even in a crowded West.

N is for next season

For those teams who finished up the regular season, they're already thinking about it. For Miami however, it can wait. While the LeBron free-agent rumors continue, he instead has his mind focused on the task at hand. Still, it won't stop us wondering; will he stay or will he go?

O is for Oklahoma

While this team may not have the best player in the league they still have this season's MVP. Whether you're ready to accept it or not, Kevin Durant has been consistently on fire all season with the Thunder looking to be the most dangerous in the West. With potential to make this Finals, they have the youthful attack that could seriously cause Miami a real headache.

P is for Portland Trail Blazers

Portland finished 5th in the league in offensive rating in part thanks to All Star Damien Lillard and LeMarcus Aldridge. A team who will take advantage of their opponent's sloppiness, Portland finished the regular season with a 21-win improvement upon last year and have a fun first round match up against the Rockets for their efforts.

Q is for Questions

Will Wade hold up injury free for the next two months? Is LeBron going to hang around? Will comeback story Greg Oden top off a year with a ring? With no clear answers just yet, Heat fans will have to have faith and believe in the three-peat bid.

R is for Rivalry - Bulls

Thankfully (at this stage), Miami have avoided the Chicago Bulls in the first two rounds of the playoffs. The Bulls have always found a way to get up for Miami and with notably the best defensive player of the year in Joakim Noah, we could in fact find ourselves meeting them in the Eastern Conference Finals. They meet the Washington Wizards first and the chance to topple either the Pacers or the Hawks in the second round. A team we'd prefer not to waste our energy on.

S is for San Antonio Spurs

Tim Duncan. One shoe. Game 6. Yellow rope. If you still have last season's Finals imbedded into your brain then you'll already be aware of the West's best who finished the No.1 seed. The Spurs have endured a relatively smooth season, they're coached by the best and know what it takes to get the job done. Last season hurt, and they'll be hungry to make up for it. Despite all this, the Thunder have the roster to stop them in their tracks should they meet in the Western Finals Conference.

T is for Toronto Raptors

The Raptors owe most of their success to Kyle Lowry. The point guard has offered the spark Toronto having been so patiently waiting for and alongside DeMar DeRozen, the Raptors have the offense to make it to the ECF. Lowry who recently spoke of his admiration for the way Shane Battier plays the game, will be the key to beating the pesky Nets.

U is for Udonis Haslem

In a season where "UD" has been on the bench more than on the court, he's been brought in to the rotation right when the Heat needed him most - and he's looked good. A certain starter over a wobbly Greg Oden, Haslem knows the route to the Finals all too well and will be looking to win his fourth ring with the Heat.

V is for Victory

16 wins. That's all Miami needs, just 16 wins. When you look at it so simply, it seems awfully achievable doesn't it? We know the road ahead is no easy feat but as a Heat fan you'd expect it to be achievable.

W is for Washington Wizards

It's also for John Wall. The man can terrorize even the strongest defense and Chicago will be tested, but not for long. Coincidently Washington haven't won a series since pulling out a win over the Bulls back in the first round in 2005. That likely won't be repeated this time.

X is for X Factor

Like the season before us, a player's X-Factor could be what separates a Finals berth from an early exit. Momentum can mean so much in basketball and it's the likes of the Durants, Nowitzkis and the Pauls which can spearhead crucial playoff victories.

Y is for yesteryear

So we finished worst than previous season efforts. Does it mean it's over before it's begun for Miami's and a possible fourth consecutive Finals appearance? Of course not! Just look back on all the extra games of basketball they've played since the 2010-11 Big 3 inauguration; they're allowed to be tired! From here on in we will see a different Heat, an all or nothing mentally. It's going to be okay.

Z is for Zzzzzz

Say goodbye to it. With the onslaught of nationally televised games often starting at 8:30 or 9:00 PM here in the East, kiss goodbye to a regular night's sleep. Team No Sleep is about to resurrected. Bring on the caffeine.