With the NBA playoffs right around the corner, teams are vying for playoff positioning as the stretch run of the season is upon us.
The Miami Heat are one of those teams pushing for playoff positioning as they sit in the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff race. The Heat are currently tied with their division rival Charlotte Bobcats for the sixth seed, and are only 2.5 games behind Milwaukee for the fifth spot.
Miami is two games over .500 at 35-33 and has been playing well as of late. And with just 14 games remaining in the regular season, the Heat are trying to make a push to recapture the fifth seed and have a potential first round matchup with either Boston or Atlanta.
After all the inconsistency that Miami has endured this season, the team is finally starting to come together at the right time. They have had a solid start to March, winning six out of their last eight games, while putting a game-and-a-half of separation between them and the eighth seeded Toronto Raptors.
In addition, they have had some encouraging wins recently over top-tier teams, such as the defending champion Lakers and Atlanta Hawks.
Miami has been able to be successful due to a revived offense, a major step up by the role players, and a more consistent rotation.
The offense has looked a lot more fluid as of late. In the month of March, the Heat have averaged 99.8 points per game, which is almost four points better than their season average of 96.2 points per game. In their six victories, they have averaged 107.3 points per game and been able to score over 100 points on top defenses such as the Lakers and Hawks.
A primary reason for this newfound offense has been the increased support of Miami's role players. In the month of March, Quentin Richardson, Carlos Arroyo, and Jermaine O'Neal have all significantly stepped up their games. Richardson is averaging 13.5 PPG, which is five points above his season average. Arroyo is averaging eight points per game, a three point increase from his season average, and JO is averaging 14.5 PPG, a one point increase in his average.
Additionally, the Heat are receiving contributions from different players every night, including Dorell Wright, James Jones, and Mario Chalmers.
The supporting cast has finally taken some of the load off Dwyane Wade's shoulders and it has made the team more of a threat on the floor and helped them win.
Another reason for Miami's recent strong play can be attributed to a more consistent starting lineup. Arroyo has become the Heat's starting point guard after the team suspended Rafer Alston for the rest of the season due to conduct detrimental to the team.
Arroyo has sparked Miami's starting lineup and has run the offense nicely. With the departure of Alston, head coach Erik Spoelstra has been able to incorporate second-year point guard Mario Chalmers into the rotation.
Chalmers minutes have been increased recently and he has responded by turning in some solid performances. His 17 points against the Bulls last Friday helped secure the win.
Miami has also been playing really well on their home floor as of late, winning six out of their last seven games at American Airlines Arena. This is a positive sign as the Heat have been uncharacteristically poor on their home floor this season, but now stand at 20-15 in Miami.
With the final stretch of the season here, the Heat have the benefit of having an easy schedule over the final month. They play only one elite team, the Orlando Magic, and only four playoff bound teams over their final 14 games. To make things even sweeter, Miami faces mostly bottom feeders to close out the year. They play the New Jersey Nets twice, the 76ers three times, the Pistons twice, and the Minnesota Timber Wolves once.
It gives the Heat a perfect opportunity to finish the season strong and make a push to regain the fifth seed and return them to their rightful throne of being the top of the middle-tier teams. Also, it gives them a shot to finish with a better record than last year's 43-39 finish.
They would need to go 8-6 over the final 14 games to accomplish that feat and they have a great shot of improving on that mark, which would be impressive considering the overload of inconsistency the team has experienced this year.
Either way, the Miami Heat look primed and ready for their playoff run and hopefully they can continue their recent string of successful basketball and head into the playoffs with momentum.