In another installment of the Heat Index's 3-on-3 series, our writers give their takes on the storylines before the Heat face the 76ers on Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, WatchESPN).
1. Who’s the biggest threat to the Heat’s repeat bid in the East?
Tom Haberstroh: Injuries! Oh, is that a cop-out? If we're picking teams, I'll go with the Knicks. I'm impressed by the Knicks' win streak, especially without a healthy Tyson Chandler. Amar'e Stoudemire's absence almost forces them to play the way they should play: Carmelo Anthony at the 4. If they can move the ball, run the spread pick-and-roll and catch fire from downtown, they have a shot, but only that.
Michael Wallace: The injury bug. Nothing has changed. That's been the biggest legitimate threat all along to the Heat's repeat bid. It's why Miami is taking extra precaution by resting LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and other rotation players who are dealing with the slightest nagging injuries at this stage. If healthy, the Heat easily overcome all the flawed teams in the East.
Brian Windhorst: The vogue pick will be the Knicks but I'm going to say the Pacers. They play a style more suited to the playoffs and have a more sustainable game plan against the Heat. Carmelo put up 50 in one of the greatest shooting performances of the decade this week, and it was still a game until the final two minutes without Wade and LeBron. I go back to sustainability.
2. Who’s the biggest threat to the Heat’s repeat bid in the NBA?
Haberstroh: The Spurs, with the caveat that Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili return to form. They have the talent, smarts and flexibility to take down the Heat, but that fourth essential ingredient needs to be there: health.
Wallace: See my answer for No. 1. But beyond that, I still say it's a healthy San Antonio Spurs team. However, with the way things are going for the Spurs lately, with Parker now joining Ginobili on the mend, San Antonio might struggle to get out of the first round. So, by default, the next-biggest threat to Miami would be a motivated Oklahoma City squad.
Windhorst: If they're fully healthy, the Spurs. But they haven't been fully healthy against the Heat in more that two years and would have to get through three series to get there. I'm not sure it's possible but I'd like to see those two legitimately go at it.
3. Over/Under: Four losses for the Heat in the East playoffs.
Haberstroh: Under. A four-game, five-game, six-game progression sounds about right if they can avoid the Celtics in the first round. They won't sweep the East, but I'll allot them three losses or else the season is a total failure. Or not.
Wallace: Push. After losing only three playoff games against the East in their first season together, LeBron & Co. dropped six last season in the conference playoffs before winning a title. If healthy, I can see the Heat going 4-1, 4-1 and 4-2 in their East series this season on the way to a return trip to the NBA Finals.
Windhorst: Over. First, I never, ever assume a sweep in any series. Second, the Knicks, Pacers and Bulls all are ahead in the season series against the Heat. They can beat them, and all could be opponents. They just won't beat Miami four out of seven.