I covered the Lakers in 2010-11 when they were chasing a third straight title and four straight Finals appearances. It was a strange experience.
That group started the season 13-2, feasting on a home-heavy, fairly soft schedule. But from there, warning signs started popping up. They had several multiple-game losing streaks, and dropped games to some absolutely hideous teams (the 19-win Cleveland Cavaliers, for example).
Those Lakers, save a brilliant run of 17 victories in 18 games coming out of the All-Star Break, rarely looked dominant, and struggled against better competition.
Despite closing with five straight losses, it was assumed by fans, media, and the Lakers themselves that they could flip the proverbial switch once the postseason arrived. They got the benefit of the doubt, because everyone knew the Lakers were saving their best stuff for when it really mattered.
And, of course, they were soundly embarrassed by the Mavericks in the second round.
With the benefit of hindsight, picking out their red flags wasn’t tough. Many we knew were there, but wrongly assumed would go away.
Which brings me to the Heat.