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2012 NBA Finals, Heat Vs. Thunder: This Is Not The Same Miami Team From Last Year's NBA Finals

The Miami Heat are much different team this year than in the past. They are, literally, a year older, but age has nothing on the team's growth and maturity. The Heat have grown, as a team and as individuals, from the group that lost last year's NBA finals to the Dallas Mavericks.

Andrew Sharp at SB Nation notes the difference in a Monday column following the Heat's Game 3 win.

Watching Game 3 I couldn't help but think back to last year, when the Heat were the young team that had an up-and-down regular season and then had everything come together in the playoffs, when they bumrushed the entire Eastern Conference and looked like they'd turned a corner. Then they got to the Finals and found a Mavericks team that wasn't necessarily better, but they'd been there before, knew what it felt like to lose, and weren't taking anything for granted. By the end of that series, Dallas made the Heat look clueless.

When it was finally over, Chris Bosh walked off the court in tears, and LeBron didn't leave his house for weeks. The "pain" that Bosh talked about Sunday was definitely real.

Who knows whether that pain actually changed the Heat as much as Bosh thinks, but for what it's worth, Game 3 was exactly the sort of game they would've lost to the Mavericks. Instead they fought back, took the openings OKC gave them, and closed at the end.

There is plenty of basketball left in the series. In fact, Miami had a 2-1 lead after three games last year, so much could still happen and the Thunder are not a team to give opponents much in the way of a break.

Stick with this StoryStream for all your news throughout the 2012 NBA Finals. For more on the Heat, visit Peninsula Is Mightier. For the opponent's perspective throughout the series, visit Welcome To Loud City and SB Nation Kansas City. For all your Finals analysis, visit SB Nation's NBA hub.

Photographs by, thelastminute, turtlemom nancy , fesek, kthypryn, justinwright, sue_elias, pointnshoot, and scrapstothefuture used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.