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How Far Can the Heat Go in the Playoffs?

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How Far Can the Heat Go in the Playoffs?
Jimmy Butler #22 of the Miami Heat. Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images/AFP

The Miami Heat have the ability to make noise in the postseason. The question we are asking today is how far can the Heat go in the playoffs? They might not be considered one of the contenders for the title but they definitely have what it takes to send one of them home early.

Who Will the Heat Face in the First Round?

At the moment, the Heat are in 4th place in the eastern conference. They sit 2.5 games behind the Celtics and 2 games ahead of the Pacers and Sixers respectively. If the playoffs were to start today, they would face the Pacers in the first round. While the Heat have been more consistent than both the Pacers and the Sixers this season, both teams would cause them considerable trouble in a first-round matchup. Especially the Pacers who some might say have overachieved considering their injury issues. Victor Oladipo missed most of the regular season while recovering from a major injury. Malcolm Brogdon who they acquired in free agency has also had nagging injuries that have seen him miss a ton of games. When the season does eventually resume, the Pacers will be at full strength for the first time which is going to be a problem for the rest of the east.

The other team chasing Miami in the standings while also being a possible first-round opponent is Philadelphia. On paper, the Sixers are the better team. In reality, the Sixers season has been very poor considering their preseason expectations. Of all the teams the Heat might face in the first round, the Sixers might be the one they want to avoid the most. They have been successful against them this year going 3-1 in their four matchups. They have also had success against Indiana who they are 2-0 against this season. With the standing in the east so tight, we also have to mention the possibility that the Heat could meet the Celtics in round 1. That would seem like a good matchup on paper for them because of Boston’s smaller lineup. That hasn’t been the case so far this year with Boston holding a 2-0 advantage on the season.

Of the three teams I mentioned, Indiana would be the ideal first round matchup for Miami. The Pacers still insist on playing Sabonis and Turner together and I think the versatility of the Heat big men gives them the advantage here. To be clear, Turner and Sabonis as a duo are more talented than whoever the Heat can pair with Bam Adebayo. The thing is, Adebayo has been one of the best defensive players in the league this season and he’s no slouch on offense. I think the Heat will go small and stretch the floor which will open things up for them. The Pacers can go small too but I don’t think they are as talented as Miami. While Oladipo might be a lot closer to his old self, I don’t think he’ll enjoy a seven game series with Jimmy Butler guarding him. I also give the coaching edge to Miami as Spoelstra has proven that regardless of who is on his roster, he will have his team ready to compete. I think the Heat would beat the Pacers in this scenario and move on to the next round.

Victor Oladipo #4 of the Indiana Pacers. Andy Lyons/Getty Images/AFP

Can the Heat Get Out of the Second Round?

The answer to that question is yes but it depends on who they play. I think if they meet the Bucks or Raptors, it’s going to get complicated. If they get the Celtics or the Sixers, then yes I think that they can advance to the conference finals. Especially if they meet Philadelphia in the second round.

The Sixers have had a poor season for a lot of different reasons that I think the Heat can exploit. Let’s start with the head coach. I’m not going to start pilling on Brett Brown who is a former Spurs assistant but at this point, it has to be obvious that they made a mistake not letting him go at the end of last year. The fact that he still hasn’t figured out that Embiid and Simmons don’t work together is baffling.

Speaking of Simmons and Embiid, I think these playoffs will probably prove to upper management in Philly that it has to be one or the other. It is no coincidence that Ben Simmons looks like an All Star without Embiid and kind of lost with him. They simply get in each other’s way. I think they’d like to get along (speaking of that, have we ever seen any evidence that these two even like each other?) but their games simply don’t go together.

Simmons is a playmaker who can’t shoot and does his best work in the post. Embiid would be at his best playing in the low to mid post surrounded by shooters. At some point Brett Brown is going to have to sit one of them in crunch time which will create its own set of problems. The final reason I think the Sixers are vulnerable to defeat against Miami is their lack of outside shooting. The Heat have a ton of shooters while the Sixers have none. In the modern NBA, that’s a problem that doesn’t really seem like it’s possible to overcome in a seven game series.

As for the Boston Celtics, I think the Heat can beat them too but that would be much more difficult than beating Philly. First of all, the Celtics are one of the best coached teams in the league, something the Sixers clearly aren’t. Also, Boston’s lineup has two players in Brown and Tatum that are virtually interchangeable. The Heat really don’t have an advantage at all against those two although I will say that they do have the shooting to upset Boston. If Miami’s shooters can get hot, they have the ability to put up big numbers. The Celtics get it done with their defense first but don’t be fooled, they are ranked top 5 in the league in both offense and defense. The Heat can beat the Celtics but it would be a lot more complicated than their chances against Philly.

Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers with Josh Richardson #0 and Ben Simmons #25. Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images/AFP

The Best Case Scenario for the Heat is Conference Finals

At the start of the season, most sportsbooks had the Heat at +6000 to win the title. Right now, BetOnline.ag has the Heat at +5000 which shows that they’ve had a good season. Nobody knew what to expect when Jimmy Butler chose to sign there but it seems like he made the right choice.

This article is about how far the Heat can go in the playoffs and there are two teams in the east that we haven’t mentioned yet. Over at MyBookie.ag, the Raptors are +1200 to repeat as NBA champions while the Bucks are +275. Clearly betting sites see those teams as clear favorites in the east and I have to agree with that assessment. I can’t see Miami beating either one of them.

I’ll start with the Raptors who have proven that last year was no fluke. Regardless of your opinion of Kawhi Leonard, you would have to have him as one of the 3-5 best players in the league. Some people would have him ranked even higher than that. Everyone thought the Raptors would implode without him and instead, they’ve been one of the 4 best teams in the league for the entire season. I think their championship experience on top of the obvious chip on their shoulder is too much for the Heat to overcome.

As for the Milwaukee Bucks, they are simply on another level. They are my favorite to come out of the east and I only see Toronto being able to slow them down. The Raptors have several bodies they can throw at Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Heat don’t have that luxury and the reality is, few teams do. The Bucks do a lot of things similar to the Heat except they do all of them better. Speaking of a chip on their shoulder, Giannis knows that if he doesn’t get to at least the conference finals, his season would be considered a failure. If he got to the conference finals and lost to the Heat, that would be a disaster. The Bucks are not losing to the Heat.

In short, what I am saying is that the Heat will probably lose in the second round unless they avoid Toronto and Milwaukee. The Heat have what it takes to make noise in the playoffs but I think that noise gets silenced in the second round.