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The best Miami Heat team in franchise history

Heat, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Ray Allen, Shaquille O'Neal

The Miami Heat have made the playoffs 20 times since its inaugural season back in 1988, winning the championship three times in that span. Plenty of Hall of Famers have played for the South Beach franchise, making it one of the hallmark organizations of the NBA.

However, there’s one Heat team that stands out when glossing over the club’s history. That’s the 2012-13 squad, which was year three of the “Big 3” era featuring LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

The Heat won a franchise-record 66 games that campaign. It was the same season when Miami racked up 27 wins in a row at one point, falling six wins short of the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers‘ record of 33 straight wins. The Chicago Bulls, sans Derrick Rose, defeated Miami on March 27, 2013 at the United Center on national television to end the streak.

LeBron won the 2012-13 regular-season MVP award after averaging 26.8 points, 8.0 rebounds and 7.3 assists in 76 games. Miami also had a top-five offense and defense, putting up 102.9 points per game while giving up just 95.0.

With Rose sitting out the whole season for the Bulls due to his ACL tear, most pundits had Miami cruising to the NBA Finals once the postseason started. The Heat were the top seed in the NBA, and they were led by a motivated LeBron, Wade and Bosh who were looking to win their second championship in a row after winning their first as a trio in 2012 against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Heat began the 2013 playoffs with an easy sweep over the Milwaukee Bucks. Before the series started, Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings said Milwaukee was going to win in six games. That didn’t work out too well for the lefty, as LeBron put up a monster stat line of 24.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 6.8 assists in the sweep.

The pesky Bulls would face the Heat in the second round. Even without Rose, Chicago was going to present problems for Miami, and that was evident in Game 1. Nate Robinson went off for the Bulls and Chicago stole the opener down in South Beach.

However, just like in the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals, the Heat — after losing Game 1 to the Bulls — went on to win four straight. Without Rose, Chicago couldn’t score enough in the half-court to keep up with Miami. Jimmy Butler led the Bulls in scoring at 15.6 points per game. James, meanwhile, averaged 23.6 points, 7.0 boards and 7.8 dimes.

In the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals, the Heat matched up against Paul George, Roy Hibbert, David West, Lance Stephenson, George Hill and the defensive-minded Indiana Pacers. Indiana was coached by Frank Vogel, who just so happens to be LeBron’s current head coach on the Lakers.

It was a very evenly matched series and it showed in the box scores. The Heat won Game 1 at home on a LeBron game-winning layup at the buzzer. It was a beautiful play drawn up by Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra.

The Pacers could have folded after that tough Game 1 loss. The Heat were certainly hoping so. However, Indiana bounced back in Game 2 by stealing home-court advantage. The Pacers won 97-93, putting all the pressure on the “Big 3.”

If the Pacers could win Game 3 at home, Miami would be in a lot of trouble. West did all he could to will Indiana to a win, but LeBron and Wade were too much in the end. Despite 21 points from West, the Heat won Game 3 to reclaim home-court advantage.

As expected, the Pacers won Game 4 at home to even up the series at two games apiece. With Wade’s knee ailing and his play declining, it was up to LeBron to lead Miami past the irksome Pacers.

Game 5 saw James score 30 points on 26 shots while shooting 50 percent from the field. Wade only had 10 points in 40 minutes and Bosh managed to register just seven. The Heat’s defense basically won Game 5 for them, limiting the Pacers to 79 points.

Indiana won Game 6 in blowout fashion, setting up a Game 7 back in South Beach to decide who the best team in the Eastern Conference was.

Most coaches and general managers would agree that LeBron is the one player everyone wants on their side in a Game 7, so it wasn’t too shocking to see the Heat demolish the Pacers to advance to the NBA Finals. James had 32 points, while Wade made a re-appearance by chipping in 21.

LeBron would be facing an old nemesis in the 2013 Finals. It was none other than Gregg Popovich, Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs — the group that swept James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2007 Finals.

This time, LeBron had the help he didn’t have on the Cavs. For the Heat to defeat the Spurs, Wade and Bosh would have to play like superstars next to James.

The Finals got off to a bad start for the Heat. The Spurs won Game 1 behind the stellar play of Tony Parker. Just like that, Miami’s home-court advantage was gone, setting up a must-win showdown in Game 2.

Mario Chalmers scored 19 points in Game 2 and the Heat rebounded with a 103-84 win. This is the game where LeBron had that monster block on Tiago Splitter.

With the series tied at 1-1, the Heat needed to win at least one game in San Antonio to reclaim home-court advantage.

Game 3 was a masterpiece for the Spurs. They won 113-77. Danny Green was a man possessed from beyond the arc and couldn’t miss. Miami was now down 1-2, with Game 4 lurking. If the Heat loses Game 4, the series would pretty much be over since no team had ever erased a 3-1 series deficit in the Finals (at that time).

Playing with a sense of desperation, Miami won Game 4 in San Antonio. LeBron poured in 33 points and Bosh was huge on the glass with 13 rebounds.

But the Spurs wouldn’t let Miami catch any sort of momentum. San Antonio won Game 5 to put the Heat on the pressure cooker. One more loss and Miami would watch its record-setting season go to waste.

It’s safe to say every basketball fan remembers where they were during Game 6 of the 2013 Finals. The Spurs were about to win the title. They had the trophy ready. All San Antonio had to do was hit a few free-throws and box-out Bosh.

Fortunately for the Heat, the Spurs choked at the end of Game 6. Bosh grabbed an offensive rebound off a James missed 3 and Ray Allen hit one of the biggest 3-pointers in NBA Finals history with 5.2 seconds left in regulation.

Game 6 went into overtime, during which Miami came out on top to win after outscoring the Spurs 8-5.

In Game 7, LeBron made sure no miracles were needed. The King finished with 37 points, 12 rebounds and four assists and the Heat finished off their incredible season with the championship.

James won his second Finals MVP after averaging 25.3 points, 10.9 rebounds and 7.0 assists.