The Miami Heat are pretty good. That’s not surprising. They’ve won the last two NBA Championships and boast the talents of one of the most absurdly gifted players in basketball history, so it’s not like anyone is shocked by the team’s success.
What is shocking, however, is how unremarkable their first-round sweep of the Charlotte Bobcats was. The first round of the 2014 NBA playoffs have been thrilling, razor-thin, and incredibly surprising. Right now at least four games have been played in every series, and the lower seed is tied or winning every single one of them except for Miami-Charlotte. Three of those series can be won in their next game, all three because the lower-seeded team holds the advantage (including an eight seed currently holding a 3-2 advantage over the East’s top-seeded squad).
Teams that stormed through the regular season as title favorites like Oklahoma City and San Antonio are locked in fierce battles just to make it to the second round (OKC down 3-2 against the Grizzlies and the Spurs grasping to a 3-2 against the Mavericks). The monstrous efforts of LaMarcus Aldridge and the Trailblazers, Washington’s commanding win over the “team no one wanted to play” from Chicago, and Indiana’s continuing collapse into historic footnote have all given the NBA playoffs a sort of frenetic energy and drama normally reserved for March Madness.
With that kind of chaos around the league, Miami has remained calm and collected in their (4-1) dispatching of the Bobcats, professionals asserting their dominance. Remember the season-long chatter about how Indiana could usurp the Heat in the East? It seems laughable now. To illustrate how far the Pacers have fallen, consider how they have been treated by Vegas: despite playing brutally bad basketball down the stretch run of the regular season, Indiana entered the playoffs with 5/1 odds to hoist the Championship. In just five games they have dropped all the way down to 30/1, the same odds the Golden State Warriors were given entering the postseason. On the flip side, the Heat have only improved their chances, climbing slightly from 9/5 favorites at the start of the playoffs to sit at 8/5 now, underscoring just how anticlimactic their first round was. Only the most adventurous souls would put money on the Pacers in their current state, while a trip to Gambling.com to lay a wager on the Heat before their odds rise as they continue their march to a three-peat seems downright pragmatic right now.
In an April full of tumult and surprise, the Miami Heat have revealed themselves to be a steady constant, dispatching of inferior competition in a quick and efficient fashion. The team now gets to rest and watch the chaos from afar while preparing to take advantage of their second-round opponent, an opponent that is sure to be drained physically and mentally after a brutal first round. It seems oddly appropriate and a bit ironic that amid all the craziness and surprises that have come to define these playoffs so far, the team best situated to win the whole thing is the least surprising of all.