The Miami Heat have been here before, back in November when a slow start led to a 9-8 opening record and yuks galore. The Heat were, at the time, just a couple games ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers in the standings, and worse than the 2009-10 Miami Heat with Dorell Wright instead of LeBron James and Michael Beasley instead of Chris Bosh. There was tension between the dual hegemons (LeBron and Dwyane Wade) and a supposed boiling clash with Erik Spoelstra, the man who the players were supposedly abandoning.
But Miami survived. A huge win in emotional Cleveland started a 20-2 run that made everyone forget about the struggles we'd witnessed. Those who laughed at Miami came to fear their power. Those who honestly believed Miami would be a bad team tucked their tails between their legs and disappeared.
Now, they're back. The Heat have lost five straight to solid competition, all of the opponents playoff teams. What's worse is that Miami's next six opponents are also playoff-bound, with the two-time defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers visiting South Beach tonight. If Miami is losing to the Knicks and Blazers, foes like the Lakers and Spurs (Monday) seem like Everests. But if we learned anything from November, from that Cleveland battle and from the run that followed, it's that one game can change anything. One emotional, powerful win can alter the path of fate, and a huge win over the Lakers can free Miami of its psychosis. Right?
We'll see. The Lakers visit the Heat at 5 PM Eastern on TNT.