Miami Heat Playoff Preview

Miami Heat Playoff Preview

Now we wait. The Miami Heat pulled off the #1 seed in the East and did with 2 games to spare. This is an accomplishment that most prognosticators were not predicting to occur because they felt this team was too old and didn’t have enough quality depth to successfully navigate the protracted grind that is the NBA regular season. The Heat also finished tied for the 3rd best record in the entire NBA, but due to a tiebreaker of head-to-head losses to the Warriors, the Heat would likely not have homecourt advantage in the NBA Finals should they make it because the top 3 seeds in the West all had better seasons over Miami.

The West was weaker this year and the East has been an absolute gauntlet this season. So, I am not putting much stock in the overall records in comparing the East and West teams, but I am more so looking at the head-to-head matchups within the inter-conference play. However, we will worry about that if and when we get there. For now, we have to focus on our first-round opponent. Who is that you may ask? Due to the nature of the play in tournament we don’t have a clue and won’t know until Friday evening, less than 48 hours before game 1 of our opening game.

The Miami Heat will be playing either the Cavs, Nets, Hawks, or Hornets. As I am writing this article the Cavs and Nets have yet to play. By the time you read this article, the winner of the Nets/Cavs will have likely been decided and locked into the 7th seed. So, Boston will know their opponent. Oddsmakers have the Nets penciled in, but games are played on the hardwood not the odds.

Nevertheless, the potential for the Nets to get into the 7th seed was enough for the Bucks to sit all their players in order to drop out of the 2nd spot. They tanked to avoid the Nets because they remember being one James Harden hamstring injury and a Kevin Durant big toe away from being knocked out of the playoffs by the Nets last season. Which surely would have caused Coach Budenholzer to lose his job and a liquidation of the Bucks roster. The defending champions didn’t want a rematch with that Brooklyn smoke.

The Heat want every series to start in front of their “White Hot” fans and if necessary to have game 7 at FTX Arena as well. They found that to be more critically important to their playoff success than avoiding any opponent. The Heat like the way their roster matches up against any other squad in the East and I don’t blame them. They are firing on all cylinders after a brief drop in form that led to a sideline argument. The national media made a big deal out of it but like Dwyane Wade said on TNT, “that’s just a Tuesday in Miami.” All is well and that skirmish led to better communication amongst the team and some lineup changes that produced better spacing and more efficient scoring on offense.

The Heat’s half-court offense has also been better in crunch time with Jimmy Butler playing the small ball power forward and running offensive actions rather than going isolation for one closing player. It’s not the way it’s typically done in the NBA as most teams choose to lean heavily on superstar players with elite one-on-one skills, but the Heat are a different kind of team and that’s what makes them formidable. The Heat are deep and loaded with ball handlers who can create their own shot or make the pass when they draw two on the attack. Not to mention the emergence of Tyler Herro as a star player who is in the 97th percentile at shot making while being in the 2nd worst percentile in shot quality. Herro is balling and doing it while not being the focal point of his offense and taking tough shots because teams are either sharing their defense at him or outright double teaming him. Tyler’s growth as an all-around player and facilitator could surprise some teams in the playoffs this season. He is not afraid of road fans or the moment. Oh and by the way, Victor Oladipo is starting to look like his old self. He should have had a 40-point triple double on Sunday if his teammates could have more some more shots. Don’t sleep on Dipo being a pinch hitter and factor in these playoffs.

The Heat are the best 3-point shooting team in the association and are tough to beat when the 3 ball is going in, not to mention they are top 10 in just about every defensive statistical category. Defense wins championships and this team is balanced. The Heat have the makings of a championship team and a favorable draw against potential 1st round opponents Cavs/Hawks/Hornets and potential 2nd round opponents Raptors/76ers. The last 4 times the Heat have had 53 wins or better, they have made the NBA finals and won it 3 times. Here’s to hoping that this season will be #4. For now, let’s enjoy this week off while watching the play in games. Let’s Go Heat!!

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