What has been a forgone conclusion for the majority of the 2012-13 NBA basketball season is now a reality: the road to an NBA championship will go through South Beach.
That’s because the Miami Heat clinched the best record in the NBA with a 103-98 win over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night in our nation’s capital. Though the Heat’s “Big 3” of Lebron James (hamstring) Dwayne Wade (ankle/knee), and Chris Bosh (flu-like symptoms) all sat out with injuries, Miami was still able to set a franchise record with 41 3-point attempts, making 17 of them. Ray Allen led the way for Miami with 23 points, one of five Heat players to reach double-figures in scoring. Point guard John Wall finished one rebound shy of a triple-double (17 points, 9 rebounds, 11 assists) for the, mediocre-yet-improved, Wizards in a losing effort.
With this 62nd win of the season, the Heat broke their franchise record for wins previously set in the 1996-97 season, with still four games to play. Miami captured the national spotlight earlier this season when they went on a 27-game winning streak (second-longest in NBA history only to the 1971-72 Lakers’ 33 game streak) between February 3rd and March 25th, 2013.
Now with the streak passed and home-court throughout the playoffs secured, the Heat can now focus their complete attention on winning the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Many members of the basketball world, including numerous former and current players and coaches, believe this Heat team is actually better than the team that dominated the Oklahoma City Thunder in a five-game Finals victory last June. Of course, the streak and the home-court will be for naught if LeBron James, who could possibly win his 4th NBA MVP award in five seasons, doesn’t lead the Heat to a second consecutive title. Despite the recent surge of the New York Knicks (led by fellow MVP candidate and potential scoring-title winner Carmelo Anthony) and the defensive-minded Indiana Pacers, who have given the Heat fits this year, Miami is expected to breeze through the Eastern Conference playoffs en route to another Finals appearance. If they do in fact get there, they can thank in large part the home-court advantage they earned with this win over the Wizards Wednesday night.