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The Heat entered the playoffs as the overwhelming favorites to win their second straight title, and they remain that way in the eyes of oddsmakers even though they’ll need to win one game in Chicago to reclaim the home-court advantage.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra’s eyes widened a bit Thursday when told that no second round in the NBA playoffs had ever opened quite this way.

“Is that right? First time ever? Really? Wow,” Spoelstra said. “Makes for great theater. I know I’m enjoying the other games, probably like other fans are enjoying ours. It shows how much parity there is and how little margin for error with the teams that are left. … We had always felt there was up to six or seven legitimate, title-contending teams.”

The way things look, maybe there’s eight now.

“It looks like it’s the best eight teams in the NBA right now,” James said. “So we’ll see what happens.”


AP Basketball Writer Brian Mahoney in New York, and AP Sports Writers Antonio Gonzalez in Oakland, Calif., and Teresa M. Walker in Memphis, Tenn., contributed to this report.