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June 28, 2017

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Irresistible Heat target NBA championship repeat thanks to unstoppable LeBron James

Can anyone stop LeBron James and the Miami Heat?

For nearly two months during the regular season the answer was an emphatic no as the reigning NBA champions went on a 27-game winning streak, second-longest ever in the league.

Now the National Basketball Association's top 15 other teams join the Heat in the league's second season — the playoffs, and beginning on Saturday a final answer will be given to the question that dominated the 2012-2013 season.

Topping the list of challengers are last year's runners-up the Oklahoma City Thunder, top-seeded in the Western Conference, West second seeds San Antonio Spurs and the New York Knicks, seeded second in the Eastern Conference behind Miami.

"King" James ruled last year's NBA playoffs by commanding the hardcourt from front to back by averaging 30.3 points, 9.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists. He didn't stop there, continuing on to London where he helped lead his mates to Olympic gold.

The Heat (66-16) have been heavily favored all year to win the NBA title, but the price has soared even higher with the postseason about to begin.

"To go into the playoffs as the odds on favorite at 5/8 is unheard of in recent years," said Kevin Bradley, sportsbook manager for online betting service Bovada.

"Despite this high price, 75 percent of the bets we have taken already today have been on them which has moved the Heat down to 2/3."

Second pick Thunder (60-22), fueled by forward Kevin Durant and guard Russell Westbrook, were listed at 17/4.

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