I believe in the Miami Heat. I think that if you got a pair of MVP-Caliber players, backed up with an All-Star, soft or tough, that can take you all the way. The way the Miami Heat played against the Lakers on Thursday night, with passion, with fire, with a back to the wall kind of feel, that’s how you win in the playoffs. The question is, can they bring that kind of effort and defense in the playoffs against the Magic, Bulls and Celtics.

LeBron James and Dwyane Wade weren’t the problem during the Heat’s five game losing streak. Chris Bosh and the rest of the role players were. Bosh said he was going to show up with venom in his play against the Lakers and lived up to the promise. Pau Gasol scored 20 points, but they didn’t come in the right moment. The last few minutes it was pretty much Kobe Bryant and nothing much else. He did hit one huge three on Wade and finished with 24 points, but generally had a bad shooting night (8-21) and was outplayed by Wade when it mattered the most. The play that pretty much finished the game – Wade was able to knock the ball out of Kobe’s hands and assist the zooming LeBron James to finish the break.

The hero for the Heat was Bosh, and he is the key to their playoff success, among other variables. Bosh finished with 24 points and 9 rebounds, his best game in quite a while. More than numbers, it was the toughness and attitude. Facing Odom (bad night), Gasol and Bynum, Bosh let the best of him come out. Again, can he bring that kind of effort every night?

It’s not only Bosh. Mike Miller made the most of his 16 minutes, hitting two tre’s, scoring 12 points and grabbing 7 rebounds. Chalmers hit three from beyond the arc. Bibby was also sharp from the outside with two three pointers. There are a lot of if’s, but that’s what the Heat need to win this year – LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to keep playing like they have, Bosh to play like it’s the Lakers every day and for the open guys to hit threes. Miami don’t have depth down low, but productive minutes from Ilgauskas, Dampier and Howard can make a huge difference.

As for the Lakers, their reliance on Kobe Bryant alone failed, like during their pre All-Star crisis. It’s a lot more about the passion displayed by Gasol and Bynum and their ability to dominate the paint on both ends. The road to the title goes through their hands.

images source