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Original Issue


Remember how clumsily LeBron James and Dwyane Wade played together when the Heat was 9--8 in late November, or even during its five-game losing streak in early March? Those intensely scrutinized rehearsals prepared them for what really matters: the postseason, which began with Miami taking a 3--1 lead against the 76ers. After struggling to coexist, the two now are clearly feeding off each other in their intuitive roles of playmaker (James) and finisher (Wade). Miami's transition play has achieved frightening speed, and its half-court offense isn't nearly as clunky as it was during a start in which the Heat went 1--9 against the league's five best teams. (Miami finished the season on a 15--3 run, with wins over the Lakers, Spurs and Celtics.) Chris Bosh has emerged as an efficient third option, while center Joel Anthony and point guard Mario Chalmers have developed crucial blue-collar roles off the bench. The consistent element of this rise is the Heat's across-the-board aggressiveness. "And we're still learning," said James. At this rate, could a trip to the Finals be far away?



ON A ROLL The rampaging James (left) ran the Heat offense, dishing out 5.8 assists per game and allowing Wade (right) to focus on finishing.