Analysis: The best player in the world continues to improve. LeBron James averaged career-highs in field goal percentage (56.5), three-point percentage (40.6) and rebounds (8.0) in leading the Heat to the NBA's best record and a 12-game lead over the No. 2 seed Knicks in the Eastern Conference. A stretch from February 3 to March 25 defined the Heat's season, as the team rattled off 27 consecutive victories, the second-longest winning streak in league history. Since losing to the Bulls on March 27, Miami has gone 10-1 despite resting their stars for a playoff push.
The team will attempt its title defense with a bench that's a bit more robust than the squad that beat the Thunder in five games in last year's Finals. Among the new faces are Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis and Chris Anderson. Allen, who turns 38 in July, has embraced his new role as sixth man, providing the second unit with perimeter shooting.
Miami is heavily favored to return to the Finals, but New York and Indiana are both capable of hanging with James and co. in a seven-game series.
Analysis: Granted, the Bucks are a "playoff team" in the sense that...well, that they're in the playoffs. Yet little else about Milwaukee seems to indicate as much. The Bucks are the only postseason entrant with a negative point differential, and as a corollary, are the only playoff team with a losing record. Head coach Scott Skiles parted ways with the organization in early January, and Brandon Jennings' erraticism has made the upcoming offseason decision to bring back the point guard a tenuous and overhanging proposition.
There are bright spots for fans of the "Fear the Deer" battle cry. Monta Ellis has paired relatively well with Jennings in the Bucks backcourt, averaging 19.2 points per game. Third-year man Larry Sanders is the leading candidate for the Most Improved Player award thanks to 2.8 blocks in just 27 minutes of action per game. Rookie John Henson has shown flashes of brilliance, and J.J. Redick has been effective off the bench since coming from Orlando.
Overthrowing the reigning champs will be an arduous venture, but don't be surprised if the Bucks make this exercise tougher than believed for the Heat.
Winning Percentage of 1,001 Simulations: Heat 95.2% - Bucks 4.8%
Series MVP: LeBron James - 24.1 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 7.5 APG
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