In the recent past I’ve compared Miami’s run in the “Big 3 Era” to that of the most recent Lakers success.
The patterns have been almost exact. The Lakers went to the NBA Finals 3 straight years, losing the first in 6, winning their first title in 5, and then going back-2-back in a seven game series. The Heat have been to 3 straight Finals, losing the first in 6, winning their first title in 5, and then going back-2-back in a seven game series.
Those Lakers went through some ups and downs in 2011 finishing the regular season with the 2nd best record out West. The Heat have looked great and terrible this year and enter the playoffs as the #2 seed in the East.
The Lakers scuffled through the first round, ultimately winning in 6 games before stunningly being swept out of the playoffs by the eventual champions,the Dallas Mavericks. The Lakers weren’t viewed as favorites to 3-peat, but not many people thought they’d lose in the second round, and to be swept in what ended up being Phil Jackson’s last game coaching the team was pretty shocking.
It’s just really hard to win 3 straight titles. History says it’s not just a comparison to those Lakers that should worry the Heat.
In the last 47 years only 3 teams pulled off the 3-peat. Michael and Scottie did it twice with the Bulls and Kobe and Shaq did it once with the Lakers. Over that same period of time, 5 teams completed repeats. The attempts to 3-peat all ended with a thud for those teams. The Celtics 60’s dynasty ended with them out of the playoffs. The Lakers were twice swept in the playoffs. The Bad Boys Pistons were swept out of the playoffs. And Hakeem’s Rockets were swept out of the playoffs.
To repeat, the 5 back-2-back champions who failed to 3-peat went a combined 0-16 in the playoff round they were eliminated in.
An observation of what made the difference for the teams that 3-peated versus the teams that didn’t?
The teams that did win a third title turned over part of their rotation while maintaining their super-star power at it’s peak. They also had home-court advantage for at least 3 of the 4 rounds they played.
The teams that didn’t, stayed with the same group, got old or hurt, or both.
Miami looks to fall into the “didn’t” category. D-Wade’s health is hard to trust. You never know what you are getting out of the old guys, Allen, Battier, Lewis, or Haslem. It’s hard to say adding Oden and Beasley constitute turning over the roster with their contributions being so minimal.
One other thing the Heat unfortunately have in common with some of the repeaters? They might have actually missed out on the 3-peat on the front end more so than the back end. Both Lakers teams lost in the Finals before repeating. As did the Pistons.
So when will the Heat lose?
Miami is 15-0 against Charlotte in the “Big 3 Era” so that would be too stunning an out. They swept Toronto this season, but were swept by the Nets. I’d begin to wonder there. Brooklyn is healthy. From January 1st until April 9 (when they beat Miami) they had the NBA’s second best record of 33-13 (Spurs were 35-11).
One thing the Heat have going for them is an easier path than most before them. I think they’ll lose at some point though. Brooklyn, Indiana, and any of the Spurs, Thunder, or Clippers appear to be the most prepared to unseat the champs. And if history tells us anything, if they lose, when they lose, it is more likely to be a crash and burn than a heart-breaker.