BEN BOLCH / ON THE NBA

As Miami Heat goes for No. 3, here are six teams that stand in the way

LeBron James

LeBron James and the Miami Heat are aiming to win their third consecutive NBA title this season, but there are several teams that are capable of preventing a Heat three-peat. (David Santiago / MCT / June 20, 2013)

"Jordan needs to anchor the defense and be more consistent."

Eastern Conference

1. Indiana. Rather than take offense at the notion that they needed more offense, the Pacers did something about it. They signed a more capable backup point guard in C.J. Watson, a proven scorer in Luis Scola and a prolific three-point shooter in Chris Copeland.

The biggest boost to a Pacers offense that averaged 94.7 points per game last season — 23rd in the league — isn't a newcomer. The return of Danny Granger from a knee injury that kept him out for all but five games last season should give Indiana scoring punch at every position.

Plus there's Paul George, the league's reigning most improved player who is on the verge of helping the Pacers break through to the Finals.

2. Chicago. Derrick Rose has been sidelined for so long now that his return invites the skepticism of a Sasquatch sighting; you'll believe it when you see it.

The hope is that an able-bodied Rose and still-improving mainstays Luol Deng and Joakim Noah give Coach Tom Thibodeau some traction after last season's stuck-in-the-mud feel.

"I just feel like it's all sort of teed up for Chicago with Rose coming back, guys like Noah and [Taj] Gibson entering their prime," Kerr said. "I think Chicago will have something special this year."

3. Brooklyn. The starting lineup of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce has accounted for 35 All-Star game appearances.

Van Gundy dismissed concerns about the zero games the Nets have played together under rookie Coach Jason Kidd.

"When Garnett and Ray Allen came to the Celtics that first year," Van Gundy said, "they won it and they had never played together. I think people make too much of people not playing together. Smart players playing together, it doesn't take any time or very little time."

And the NBA champion is…

San Antonio.

The Pacers finally zoom past the Heat in the playoffs before being totaled by the more savvy Spurs. Ginobili and Leonard make their free throws in the final minute this time and Duncan gets to call every digit on one hand a ring finger.

Three-peat is forgotten. Just as it should be.

ben.bolch@latimes.com

Twitter: @latbbolch

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