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Play Breakdown: ‘Flash’ Returns for the Heat

Apr 20, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade (3) motions to fans before a game against the Charlotte Bobcats in game one during the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Though difficult to comprehend now, it wasn't long ago that the Miami Heat – with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh wearing red and gold – looked lost offensively. Conventional wisdom before the 2010-2011 season was that Miami would take the league by storm, ushering in new structures of team-building both on and off the floor. Back then, it didn't seem insane when Jeff Van Gundy predicted that this new Big Three would lead the Heat to a record-breaking 73 wins – never before had skilled, smart, uber-athletes of James and Wade's caliber ran opposite wings, and Bosh was an ideal fit alongside them as rangy inside-out scorer.

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The Crippling, All-Court Influence of Andrew Bogut’s Absence

Oct 31, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA;   NBA referee Ed Malloy (14) holds back Golden State Warriors center Andrew Bogut (12) after a foul on Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan (not pictured) in the second quarter of the game at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

That analysis of the crushing impact Andrew Bogut’s indefinite absence will have on the Warriors playoff hopes has been relegated to one side of the ball is extremely telling. Golden State was a defensive team first and foremost this season, after all, due in large part to the supreme influence of its seven-foot Aussie. But his near-dominance on that end of the floor not withstanding, we’d be remiss to continue acting as if the loss of Bogut won’t prove detrimental to the Warriors offense, too. And considering that reality, it bears mentioning that Golden State is in even more trouble against the Clippers than anyone's anticipating.

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Kawhi Leonard’s Gradually Ascending Star

via flickr | Mark Runyon

Such lofty preseason expectations for Kawhi Leonard were never fair. The popular assumption that the high-motor, mild-mannered Leonard would usurp Manu Ginobili as the third wheel in the San Antonio machine this season was always naive, a result of kneejerk NBA Finals judgments and the belief that time was finally catching up with the Spurs.

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Dirk Nowitzki: Out With The Old, In With The Old And New

via flickr | Drriss & Marrionn

33 year-old Dirk Nowitzki, still basking in the glory of newly-minted titles like NBA champion and Finals MVP, opened the 2011-2012 season out of shape. The impending consequence was the worst campaign of his professional career: Nowitzki appeared in just 53 games, registered his lowest player efficiency rating since 2000, and failed to lead Dallas to a playoff birth for the first time in 12 years.

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2014 All-Star Profile: Chris Bosh

via flickr | Gabriel Li

LeBron James and Steph Curry traded four would-be game-winners in the final 60 seconds of the Heat’s wild 111-110 win over the Warriors in Oakland on Thursday night. Miami squandered a seemingly insurmountable 21-point third quarter lead at the hands of surreal Golden State shot-making and a raucous Oracle Arena crowd, setting the stage for James to steal back the victory with a 27-footer as .2 seconds remained on the game-clock.

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2014 All-Star Profile: Blake Griffin

via flickr | clappstar

Somewhere between the time he jumped “over” a kia in 2011 and Chris Paul separated his shoulder on January 3rd, Blake Griffin’s game was taken for granted. Not his highlights, of course. The jaw-dropping dunks that made Griffin a superstar his rookie year came more frequently than ever. But the crux behind his eroding reputation as a player had as much to do with those posterizations and alley-oops as any sudden deficiencies. Was Griffin, he of dropping raw statistics for consecutive seasons, really much more than the league’s best dunker?