The Eastern Conference playoffs may not just be “The Miami Heat featuring seven other teams that will lose sooner or later” this season.

SI.com’s Rob Mahoney told SiriusXM’s Off The Dribble that a third straight Eastern Conference championship for the Heat isn’t a foregone conclusion in 2013-14.

“I think the concern [with the Indiana Pacers] is pretty legitimate,” Mahoney said. “They happen to match up especially well with Miami, and Chicago is in kind of a similar situation. Both of those teams could absolutely beat the Heat in a seven-game series.”

After adding that the Brooklyn Nets could also contend for a spot in the Finals, Mahoney said that unlike the recent past, if tasked with taking Miami or the field in the Eastern Conference playoffs, he’d take the latter.

“I would still pick Miami to win the East, with the caveat that the field is the absolute pick,” Mahoney said. “You would not pick Miami over the field, you would not pick any team to be the definitive favorite across the league, just because there are 10 teams that could potentially be vying for the title this year. And that’s assuming that nobody comes out of nowhere.”

Miami has also won back-to-back-to-back division titles, and won the NBA championship each of the last two seasons.

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