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Heat looking ahead, not back at 2012 success

Friday - 4/19/2013, 4:01pm  ET

FILE - In this June 22, 2012, file photo, Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade holds the the Larry O'Brien NBA Championship Trophy and LeBron James holds his most valuable player trophy after Game 5 of the NBA finals basketball series against the Oklahoma City in Miami. Only four franchises in more than 40 years have successfully defended an NBA championship. And such is the challenge now for the Miami Heat. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)

AP Basketball Writer

MIAMI (AP) -- A year ago, the Miami Heat were chasing something.

This time around, everyone is chasing them.

And in simplest terms, that's the taproot of the philosophy Heat coach Erik Spoelstra began trying to instill in his team way back in September, even before the first practice of training camp. Only four franchises since 1969 -- only five in league history, period -- have won back-to-back NBA championships, proof that successfully defending a title is much tougher than winning one in the first place.

Such is the challenge the Heat will face starting Sunday, when they play host to the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 1 of an Eastern Conference first-round series.

"It's a small group to win back to back because you have to have that same resilience," Heat guard Dwyane Wade said. "We had resilience last year in that no matter what happened, we were going to get through it. Some way, somehow, we were going to win that championship. Do we have that same resilience again? That's the unknown."

Finding that proverbial chip for their shoulders might be tougher than anything else the Heat have faced this season.

They got their rings and then went out and posted the best record in the league, 66-16. They won 27 straight games along the way, won 40 times by double figures, then finished the regular season with an eight-game winning streak -- the longest current run in the NBA -- despite being without Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh for many of those games.

James missed time with a right hamstring strain, which he said provided him with a break that he didn't even know he needed. He even likened a few days without basketball to a few days without fiancee Savannah Brinson.

"When you're around it every day, every single day for the last 2
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