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Heat heavily favored to repeat as NBA champs

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By The Associated Press
Thursday, April 18, 2013, 7:09 p.m.
 

Looking for a reason not to pick the Miami Heat to win another NBA title?

Don't check the odds, where the Heat are such overwhelming favoriteesthat 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. 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.”

The playoffs start Saturday 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 a team such as 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. “... 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.”

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 New York, Indiana and Chicago beat them multiple times during the regular season.

Knicks center Tyson Chandler said the other contenders shouldn't feel slighted by all the experts who 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.”

There is much more intrigue out West, especially in the two series involving Los Angeles teams. The Clippers and Grizzlies went seven games last year before the Clippers advanced, and this time they have the home-court advantage. The Lakers didn't even clinch a playoff spot until Wednesday, but they won their final five games and look dangerous even without Kobe Bryant thanks to the inside play of Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol.

 

 
 


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