As the first round of the NBA playoffs are coming to an end, the picture of who will play in the finals is becoming remarkably clearer. With a few teams dominantly prevailing in the preliminary round, there is no doubt which teams are on a mission and which teams are just fighting to play another day.

It’s simply not a post-season of stiff competition. Yes, game four of the Chicago Bulls and Brooklyn Nets series went to triple-overtime. The Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Clippers had their series tied at two games each. However, those exciting story lines are simply irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. 

The main reason for that is evident: the Miami Heat. Although it may get annoying that nearly every sports journalist praises the Heat, there is a good explanation for that. Nothing truly proves them otherwise, leaving Miami as the clear and obvious front-runner to win the Eastern Conference and advance to the NBA Finals for the third consecutive year. 

The combination of talent, chemistry and experience has created a dominant dynasty in South Beach which dares to be reckoned with.

Although no other team in the NBA quite possesses everything the Heat do, there are a few teams which have some of the same winning traits that pose a slight threat to LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.

Of those threats in the Western Conference, the Oklahoma City Thunder are among a select few that preside on the top of that list. Finals runner-ups of only a year ago, the Thunder posses the youth and talent necessary to compete with Miami. However, with star point guard Russell Westbrook out for the rest of the playoffs due to a knee injury, Oklahoma City just doesn’t have enough pieces to compete with the Big 3 (James, Wade, Bosh). 

Arguably the best competition and most likely to face Miami in the finals, the San Antonio Spurs pose the greatest threat from the Western Conference. The mix of talent, chemistry and experience is there. Even so, the aging Spurs will either be worn out by the time they reach the finals, or unable to compete with the fast paced and physical style of play by Miami. 

The final Western Conference squad that may stand a chance against the defending champions are the Los Angeles Clippers. A lack of experience is their greatest weakness as the Clippers haven’t been legitimate title contenders since rebuilding their team. However, their exciting and youthful style of play matches that of Miami and left them splitting the regular-season series 1-1. 

Currently, the Miami Heat have advanced and look to play the Chicago Bulls as the New York Knicks advance to most likely face the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference. In the West, the Oklahoma City Thunder advance to play the winner of the highly contested Clippers-Grizzlies series while the San Antonio Spurs move on to face the Golden State Warriors in all likelihood. 

When it comes down to it, the Miami Heat will yet again be battling for the prestigious Larry O’Brien trophy en route to creating a dynasty. The real question is whether or not anyone will be able to halt this dynasty, or even give them a scare.

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