The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Sports

April 19, 2013

Is there a challenge for Heat in NBA playoffs?

(Continued)

New York, which won three out of four from Miami, hosts Boston on Saturday in the playoff opener. The Nets welcome Chicago for the first postseason game in Brooklyn, while the Western Conference has Golden State visiting Denver, and the Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies squaring off in a first-round rematch.

On Sunday, the Lakers go to San Antonio without Kobe Bryant, and defending West champ Oklahoma City faces former Thunder star James Harden and Houston. Indiana and Atlanta meet in the other East game.

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 Indiana and Chicago also beat them multiple times during the regular season.

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

Miami faced plenty of adversity during last season's championship run. They were down 2-1 to Indiana in the second round, with Wade struggling and Chris Bosh injured. The Celtics took a 3-2 lead in the conference finals back to Boston before James fought off elimination with a 45-point performance in Game 6, and the Thunder took the opener of the NBA Finals and nearly rallied two nights later to put the Heat in a 2-0 hole.

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