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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 7:00 AM

We haven’t had a chance yet, here in the NOTEBOOK, to talk about the first round series featuring the Miami Heat and the Milwaukee Bucks. That’s probably for the best, because it’s not going to be much of a series! Maybe the Bucks can steal one at home. But, there’s no way they’re stealing this series.

Is there ANYONE in the East really capable of taking out the Heat in a best-of-seven series? Before we look at the possibilities, some quick notes…

*Usually “surprises” in basketball are triggered by three-pointers. That’s more common in college hoops. But, even in the NBA…you can usually trace a major upset to superior shooting, or better long range production. Miami averaged 8.7 made treys per game during the regular season. That was second best in the East, and third best in the whole NBA. If anyone, it’s MIAMI who can get hot from long range and end a game that way. Opponents will have to make 11-12 treys on four different occasions to counteract what the Heat are doing. Not likely outside of New York…and New York has other issues we’ll discuss in a moment.

*Miami plays great defense when they have to. They don’t attack all the time because that would wear everyone down. When it MATTERS, LeBron James can defend any position with authority, and the team as a whole really clamps down. It’s going to be very tough for anyone to beat Miami in a “defensive struggle” because the Heat will match whatever the opponent brings. And, Miami will probably shoot better from long range in that defensive struggle than their opponent.

*Miami can play at any pace. They’re much slower than many in the media realize. All fast break dunks get highlight reel coverage…so it’s assumed that Miami runs a lot because they make so many dunks. But, they prefer running a halfcourt offense because it’s so hard for opponents to stop the various weaponry. Try to run with Miami, and they’ll dunk on your heads! Play slow, and they’re going to be much better on a per-possession basis than you are.

The Heat are built to win championships. The two teams most commonly sited as threats in the East are New York and Indiana.

*New York does make a lot of three-pointers, but their inside defense was very soft this season. They have impressed against the stagnant Boston offense so far in the first round. They will be in big trouble against the dynamic offense the Heat bring to the table. New York will have to probably average a dozen made treys if they’re going to steal the Eastern Conference’s bid (assuming they get past Indiana).

*Indiana has a great defense. But, they only make 7 treys per game (compared to 8.7) for the Heat, and the offense tends to shrivel up when pressured. The Pacers impressed last year against Miami before fading. They are more mature and experienced this year…but not enough to make up for how Miami has improved too. Indiana added maturity…Miami added Ray Allen standing at the arc ready to make a trey!

We’ll talk more about Miami when we preview their second round series against the Brooklyn/Chicago winner. We may not talk much more about the Heat until the Eastern Finals. And, we may not be talking about vulnerabilities of the Heat until the league finals. They’re that good…and that far ahead almost everyone in the league except the team they’ll be facing in the Western finals.

Are they good enough to cover tonight’s steep road spread in what is shaping up as an emotional letdown spot? JIM HURLEY has some thoughts about that. You can purchase the full Thursday slate with your credit card right here at the website. If you have any questions about NBA or MLB service, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453.

Back with you Friday to check in on the exciting Denver/Golden State series. Then, we’ll take our first NOTEBOOK look Saturday at Memphis/LA Clippers. By then we’ll have touched base with all eight opening round matchups. Next week will be devoted to monitoring the most exciting developments on the fly.

Stick with us DAILY in the NOTEBOOK for key handicapping information, and get your BIG, JUICY WINNERS from JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!

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