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What to make of the Heat?

     Pat Riley inherited (or seized, depending on your poInt of view) a project as much as a juggernaut. That Christmas Day win over the Lakers verified as much.

     Defensive problems remain. Beyond all of that, the best team in the NBA -- 21-3 Detroit -- stands in the Eastern Conference path (among others), even before you get to West beasts like San Antonio.

     Shaq vs. Kobe and Pat vs. Phil made Heat-Lakers the sexy holiday main course, but it was the appetizer, Detroit vs. San Antonio, where you found your championship preview based on current indications.

     So tell me. Why should Riley and the Heat -- right now -- be seen as anything more than a longshot, second tier, for a title?

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