Miami Heat: Predicting the Playoff Road to Another NBA Finals Appearance
As bad as the Miami Heat has looked at times this season, the fact remains they are still 8-3. This is a team that could be at .500 or undefeated at this point in the year looking at the results.
This team has lost two overtime games—one in which they blew a sizable fourth-quarter lead. Miami is by no means perfect, but when at the top of their game, they are the best team in the NBA.
The Heat have quite a way to go to be considered locks for a shot at redemption in the Finals, but still remain dangerous with a ton of star power.
While looking at the possible teams in the Eastern Conference that could derail Miami, this list is stacked with clubs that could give the Heat a nightmare in a seven-game series.
Let's look at possible scenarios Miami might face in the playoffs.
No. 8 Philadelphia 76ers vs. No. 1 Miami Heat
Philadelphia has been one of the best-looking NBA teams around in the early going. They are currently sitting at 7-3, but they have the highest win differential in the league at 13.8 points a night.
However, there are plenty of talented teams in the East that could be just a step or two ahead of the 76ers.
In a rematch of the first round in the playoffs last season, it is highly possible Miami could meet a team that provided plenty of challenge last year. Philadelphia had double-digit leads on multiple occasions during the series, but only managed to win one out of five games.
Philadelphia is receiving plenty of help off the bench from guys like Lou Williams, Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner, but it's the team defense which has impressed thus far. They are allowing a league low 85.5 points a game and grabbing 9.2 steals.
The 76ers have some valuable depth, but they lack a dominant scorer and a true star in the NBA. Andre Iguodala is a versatile player and Jrue Holiday is a developing young point guard, but this team is not built to win a series this year.
They can run the floor with Miami for 48 full minutes, but they do not possess the overall talent to beat the Heat in a seven-game series.
Prediction: Miami wins the series 4-1
No. 4 Indiana Pacers vs. No. 1 Miami Heat
The Indiana Pacers are obviously my dark horse for a nice playoff run. With many teams questionable based off age, chemistry and other issues, Indiana has the tools to really surprise in the East.
A combination of one of the game's best growing big men in Roy Hibbert, two solid wing options with Danny Granger and Paul George and the help of an above-average supporting cast makes Indiana a team to look out for.
Indiana is currently playing effective defense and grabbing plenty of rebounds in the process. They are waiting on Granger to get back on track and step up, but they won't impress in many categories overall—even when at full force.
However, the great thing is they have no glaring weakness. The can spread the floor, bang inside and really play a team game with minimal turnovers.
This is the same team Miami beat by 35 points without Dwyane Wade, but do not underestimate. Indiana played a hard fought series against the top-seeded Chicago Bulls last season and should only look better now.
Once again, Miami will run-and-gun throughout the series in order to get inside the paint and not settle for bad shots.
Indiana was forced to fire from long range in the first meeting of the season, but is a team capable of hitting a hot streak for an explosive night.
Prediction: Miami wins 4-1
Other possible teams: New York Knicks, Boston Celtics, Orlando Magic
No. 2 Chicago Bulls vs. No. 1 Miami Heat
This Eastern Conference Finals rematch will happen. Whether it's the Bulls or Heat securing home-court advantage, they are the best two teams in the NBA.
A series like this will be a major test for both teams to see who has progressed the most over the last year, but the fact is either team is capable of winning.
Chicago simply dominates in every aspect of the game. They are a hard-nosed defensive team who can also look to push the pace with MVP point guard Derrick Rose. The Bulls can also spread the floor when the role players are clicking, or even work the ball inside to a talented frontcourt.
Miami wants to make this one a fast-paced series. The higher the point total between the two teams, the more likely the Heat will come out on top.
With two players in the series winning the last three MVP awards, the big difference in the end will be who else steps up for their respective teams.
Expect Wade to dominate.
While he didn't have the best showing in the series last year, he knows the role he must play to help Miami advance. No one should really be able to contain "Flash" with the exit of Keith Bogans, so look for him to exploit that early and often.
The most impressive aspect of the Heat win last season was just how big Chris Bosh stepped up when needed. He simply dominated inside by averaging 23.2 points a game on 60 percent shooting. While it was his best series of the playoffs, he showed how good he could be and why he should be considered a star in the NBA.
Miami should once again go with the philosophy of "shut down Rose, shut down Chicago."
I'm still not convinced the Bulls have a player besides Rose who can take over a game. This will ultimately doom Chicago in the end and really hamper the Bulls' ability to stay balanced.
Prediction: Miami wins 4-3 in the best series of the year
Other possible teams: None, just trust me.
No. 1 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. No. 1 Miami Heat
This could be one of the best NBA Finals series in history.
Why? Because it brings together the best teams in each conference.
Along with that, we will see the NBA's two best scorers square off in Kevin Durant and LeBron James. Oklahoma City will also bring two star potential young players in Russell Westbrook and James Harden.
A battle of two dangerous trios, we will see some of the league's best current players go up against some of the budding stars of the future.
Just like Miami, Oklahoma City is not playing up to their potential thus far in the season. However, they still have a 10-2 record to show for it. The Thunder have had glitches in chemistry and understanding of how to win together, but still manage to win based off of raw talent.
The key difference in this series has to be the stars themselves.
Will LeBron finally show the ability to dominate the floor on the biggest stage of them all, or will it be Kevin Durant who leads the next generation of stars into early success?
Will it be Dwyane Wade who uses his championship experience to propel Miami to the second title in franchise history, or will it be Russell Westbrook who proves he can be an elite point guard with all of the necessary skills?
There are plenty of intriguing storylines in this one for sure.
However, we will have to wait and see if both of these contenders can find their way through some tough competition to set up this instant classic.
Prediction: Miami wins 4-3