In the early goings of the postseason, the Heat have looked unstoppable. The Milwaukee Bucks have managed to remain within striking distance for stretches at a time, but they still lost the first two games of the series by an average of 17.5 points.
Through the first eight quarters of playoff basketball, Miami was outscored just once. And that's with the Heat struggling to knock down their threes (31 percent) and being much too cavalier with the basketball (16.5 turnovers).
Of course, we've only seen them play the Bucks, but LeBron James and friends have the ability to make any team in the NBA look like the Bucks do now—a deer in headlights (pun/cliche intended).
Miami could honestly win a championship without losing in the postseason at all. We saw the Heat win 27 games in a row, so another 16—12 of which would come against Eastern Conference foes—wouldn't be out of the question.
Will they go undefeated? Probably not. That I elected to use "probably" instead of "most certainly" says a lot. They're that good.
How many games (if any) they ultimately drop depends on who they're forced to play.
If the Association's first-round series was expanded to, let's say, a best-of-15 bout, I could definitely see Milwaukee winning one before Miami wins eight.
In a best-of-seven series, though, the Bucks will be lucky to come within single digits of a victory.
By no means am I carrying out some ill-fated, self-fulfilling endeavor against the Bucks. They're not horrible (or rather, they shouldn't be). They're a faction of underachievers, which is a backhanded compliment.
Against the Heat, however, they're nothing but fodder. They're the appetizer before dinner. And even that's a stretch.
Miami is too fast for them to defend, and Brandon Jennings added some unnecessary purpose to the Heat's already meaningful cause. And when the Heat go cold, the Bucks fail to capitalize. They've combatted Miami's 31 percent three-point clip through two games with a 24.6 percent conversion rate of their own.
Nothing about this matchup suggests the Heat will find a way to lose even one game. They could realistically drop one in Milwaukee (playing on the road is a fickle task), but I just don't see it. Not the way they've manhandled the Bucks thus far.
Predicted Number of Losses in Round 1: 0
Miami won all three of its regular-season contests against Brooklyn by an average margin of 21 points. The Heat went 2-2 against the Bulls during the regular season—one of their losses even coming at home, where they are 39-4 (playoffs included) on the year.
So much would go into determining how either series pans out for the Heat. From which version of Deron Williams shows up to how healthy the Bulls are, there's a lot to consider. So let's begin with the obvious: Would Miami make it to the Eastern Conference Finals?
Yes. No matter which matchup the Heat pull, I don't see either the Nets or Bulls winning four of seven.
Would they win any games at all?
In Brooklyn's case, that's debatable. The Nets failed to reach 90 points in each of their three games against Miami this year, while allowing the Heat to score 102 or more every time.
Given the opportunity to face LeBron and crew on numerous occasions, they look like a team that could steal one game at home. A sweep wouldn't be out of the question, either.
With Chicago, it's more complicated. A surprise return from Derrick Rose could help give the Bulls an edge, but we can't plan as if he's going to return. Most likely, he won't.
Going on the assumption that Rose isn't in the lineup, and Joakim Noah is, Chicago's stingy defense should snag two victories. I wouldn't rule out a seven-game series, but each of Miami's two victories against the Bulls have come by double digits and when scoring at least 97 points. The Heat have found holes in Chicago's defense.
There's also the potential for the Heat to go on one of their unguardable runs and take care of the Bulls in five. Knowing how physical Chicago can be and how Miami has struggled in brutally-played games, picking the Heat in six is the safest bet.
Who are the Heat more likely to face?
I've gone back and forth. I originally picked the Bulls to make the upset, but then let my emotions get carried away after Game 1, and predicted the Nets in six. If Noah can stay healthy, though, I'm inclined to favor my original hypothesis.
Predicted Number of Losses in Round 2: 1-2
Eastern Conference Finals
The Heat are going to be facing either the New York Knicks or Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals. I won't try to pass this off as a fact (there's still a lot of basketball to play), but I'm convinced that's how it will play out.
Against the Pacers, the Heat were 1-2 during the regular season. They eclipsed the 90-point plateau just once, and both of their losses came by double digits.
For reasons that don't apply to Paul George (he's awesome), I don't believe in the Pacers when they go up against the Heat. Their defense is outstanding, but I don't like their chances in South Beach. The only game they dropped against the Heat was there and they lost by 14.
In the interest of full disclosure, I'm also intrigued by this matchup. Few teams can say they can hold Miami to around 90 points a game consistently, and Indiana is one of them.
The Pacers' offense has also been streaky since the All-Star break. They averaged just 94.7 points a night during the regular season, but had these stretches where they would just explode for 100-plus points.
If Roy Hibbert is on his game, the Pacers also present an overwhelming post matchup. Chris Andersen has brought some much needed interior defense into the fold, but Hibbert along with David West can be a difficult combo to defend and score against. Bear in mind that Chris Bosh isn't the most skilled of post defenders, either.
Should the Heat face the Pacers, I believe they'll still advance. I can't envision Indiana's defense holding on for four victories, especially when at least one of those would need to come in Miami.
Does this have the potential to go a full seven games? Absolutely. I'm more inclined to predict Heat in six.
Expecting a turbulent offense like Indiana's to score enough to beat Miami three times in seven tries is a lot to ask. If the Pacers shot the three-ball better (34.7 percent on the year), they'd have enough firepower to keep pace. But they don't.
Do you know who does?
The Knicks, who set an NBA record for the number of three-pointers made in a single season. They have the best chance at pulling off the upset.
I'm not basing this off New York's 3-1 record against Miami during the regular season, either. The Knicks can simply hit threes in bunches, which you need to do to beat the Heat consistently.
That said, I'd be lying if I said New York's two victories in South Beach weren't an interesting anecdote. The Heat have lost at home just four times thus far all year. To know the Knicks account for two of those is incredible.
For the boys in orange and blue to have a legitimate shot at winning or pushing the series to seven games, they need to stray away from isolation plays, specifically with Carmelo Anthony.
As we've seen with the Boston Celtics, teams are prepared to let 'Melo have his 30-plus points a night. I'd expect the Heat to do the same. And unlike the Celtics, they have a reliable offense that can offset his performance.
When 'Melo's points come within the flow of the offense, though, the Knicks border on unguardable. The more the ball moves, the more open threes they get. And the more they get, the more they hit. And the more they hit, the more they win.
If there's a team in the Eastern Conference that can contend with the Heat, or even beat them, it's the Knicks. Should these two wind up squaring off, Miami will lose at least two games, maybe three. Potentially even four.
Predicted Number of Losses in Eastern Conference Finals: 2-4
The Western Conference is a mess—in a good way.
If I'm being honest, I could see any team besides the Houston Rockets sneaking through. The conference is that deep.
Naturally, the favorite will be the Oklahoma City Thunder. They had the best regular-season record in the conference and are the reigning champions of the west.
Oklahoma City is 0-2 against Miami on the season, and dating back to the 2012 NBA Finals, the Thunder have lost six straight against LeBron and friends.
Is the potential for an upset there? As long as Kevin Durant is in uniform, absolutely. I just still see the Thunder as a team that could fall in five.
To be fair, I don't see any Western Conference team pushing the Heat more than six games. Maybe the Spurs, but there's just something about LeBron and Dwyane Wade playing for a second-straight championship that scares the hell out of me.
It should scare the hell out of any team in any round that is forced to go up against the Heat, but in the finals, Miami can taste it. Just ask the Thunder.
Predicted Number of Losses in NBA Finals: 1-2
The Final Tally
First off, I see the Heat in the NBA Finals again (though I would welcome the Knicks to prove me wrong).
En route to getting there, I think they lose four games. Pulling the Bulls in the second round would ensure a tough battle, and then moving on to face the Knicks or Pacers would be even more difficult.
Still, Miami should get there.
And once they're there, they are not going home empty-handed. Whether it comes against the Thunder or Spurs or Nuggets or Los Angeles Clippers (the list goes on), they're not going to lose more than twice.
That brings our total to six, which may seem low. The Heat lost just seven last season, though, and they're arguably more dangerous this year.
So let's set the over/under at six, and watch the Heat play on.
Predicted Number of Total Postseason Losses: 6
*All stats from this article were compiled from Basketball-Reference unless otherwise noted.