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Count on a scorching start frowm the ruthless Heat, who will create turnovers and easy baskets as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh turn mutual admiration into regular-season dominance. Miami will earn home court advantage throughout the playoffs, leaving the Celtics gasping.
But in the Finals it's the champion Lakers who control the matchups. Pau Gasol, Bosh will be reminded, is the best power forward on Earth; Kobe Bryant has the edge at shooting guard until Wade proves otherwise; Ron Artest's mauling defense can stymie even James. Derek Fisher is a better clutch option than any of the Heat's role players, and if Andrew Bynum is healthy—a big if, based on his history—Miami's Big Three will have no answer for L.A.'s Large Three of Bynum, Gasol and sixth man Lamar Odom. The Lakers' deeper bench and Phil Jackson's unrivaled experience will ensure a threepeat for the Lakers, leaving Heat president Pat Riley with a new mission for next summer: Find more frontcourt help.
Boston Celtics (3)*
Philadelphia 76ers (9)
New Jersey Nets (10)
New York Knicks (11)
Toronto Raptors (15)