Don’t check the odds, where the Heat are such an overwhelming favorite that it might as well be Tiger Woods against a weekend hacker.
Definitely don’t bother with the Heat’s results, which show exactly three losses since the start of February.
And certainly don’t look on the court, where LeBron James sent season-long reminders that he’s better than ever and already the best in the world.
The only people who might really believe in caution are the Heat themselves.
“There’s going to be trials and tribulations no matter what, no matter how good of a team you are,” Dwyane Wade said. “There’s going to be a moment in the playoffs where our back is going to be against the wall. And I think everything we’ve done this season will prepare us for that moment. We have a goal, just like every other team that gets into the playoffs, to win a championship. But we understand the process that it takes.”
It starts Saturday, when the playoffs start with four first-round games. The Heat will open Sunday against Milwaukee in what’s expected to be a quick series.
Then it will be up to someone like the Knicks, Thunder, Spurs, or some other contender, to prove that the next two months aren’t just a formality.
“They’ve had the best record and they’re the defending champs so they’re the team to beat, but I don’t think it’s much beyond that,” Nets interim coach P.J. Carlesimo said. “I mean, give them their due. They have the best record and they’re the defending champs, so they’re the team that you need to beat, but no, I don’t think anybody is head and shoulders over any. There’s too many good teams.”
New York, which won three out of four from Miami, hosts Boston on Saturday in the playoff opener. The Nets welcome Chicago for the first postseason game in Brooklyn, while the Western Conference has Golden State visiting Denver, and the Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies squaring off in a first-round rematch.
On Sunday, the Lakers go to San Antonio without Kobe Bryant, and defending West champ Oklahoma City faces former Thunder star James Harden and Houston. Indiana and Atlanta meet in the other East game.
Miami went 66-16 and has been so dominant since Super Bowl Sunday that the betting site Bovada gave the Heat opening odds to win the championship that it said were “unheard of in recent years” _ and then already had to lower them when most of the action was coming in on the Heat, anyway.
That dropped Miami to a 2-to-3 favorite, meaning a $3 bet only won $2 more. The Heat were 2-to-9 favorites to win the East, where Indiana and Chicago also beat them multiple times during the regular season.
Knicks center Tyson Chandler said the other contenders shouldn’t feel slighted by all the experts that are picking the Heat.
“No, not at all. They should pick the Heat,” he said. “They’re the defending champions and they should get that respect. But that’s not what we believe. We haven’t believed in that throughout the year. But they should get that respect because they’ve earned it.”