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Miami Heat: Grading Their Playoff Chances Against the Beasts of the East

Danny DolphinAnalyst IMarch 10, 2011

Miami Heat: Grading Their Playoff Chances Against the Beasts of the East

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    Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

    The Miami Heat's 2010-11 season has been a roller coaster to say the least, and they're currently riding a downward plunge.

    In the midst of a season-high five-game skid, many question the Heat's toughness and resolve as the playoffs near.

    With a brutal schedule on deck, starting with the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night, will things turn for the better?

    Time is running out. Let's break down their potential playoff matchups with the top teams in the East. Philadelphia and Indiana won't be considered because they're dreaming if either thinks it has a prayer of winning a first-round series.

    The three threat levels—low, medium and high—will be given to each team based on a seven-game playoff series with the Heat.

5. New York Knicks

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Threat Level: Low

    Current Standing: Sixth in East

    Head to Head: 2-2

    Scoop: If the season ended today, these two would be matched up in Round 1. Although the new-look Knicks have beaten Miami, they just don't have the defensive prowess or depth to hang with them in a seven-game series. Their bench makes Miami's appalling second unit look good.

    This may be a riveting rivalry in the future, but this isn't New York's year.

    Prediction: Heat in six

4. Atlanta Hawks

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Threat Level: Low

    Current Standing: Fifth in East

    Head to Head: 1-1 (with two more to come)

    Scoop: The Hawks made a major move at the trade deadline by acquiring Kirk Hinrich. He is the perfect playoff point guard because of his shooting ability and intensity on the defensive end. He can give Dwyane Wade problems.

    Al Horford is a tough matchup for Miami inside. That said, Atlanta lacks the true stud to lean on in a playoff series. Joe Johnson is not the superstar he's paid to be, and his shooting is down this year.

    This is a very good team, but not good enough to make major noise in the playoffs, especially against the Heat, if they somehow met.

    Potential Prediction: Heat in six

3. Orlando Magic

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Threat Level: Medium

    Current Standing: Fourth in East

    Head to Head: 2-2

    Scoop: Orlando dished out Miami's worst loss of the season last week on the Heat's home turf. They allowed the Magic to come back from a 24-point deficit in a collapse that has since dropped the Heat to a dark place.

    The Magic are an interesting team because of their plethora of shooters on the outside, with Dwight Howard on the interior. However, they live and die by the three, and regardless of what Dwight accomplishes from the post, Miami can put them aside in a potential playoff matchup by defending the three-point line.

    Orlando's perimeter defense is also merely average, while the Heat's perimeter scorers are their strength.

    Potential Prediction: Heat in five

2. Chicago Bulls

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Threat Level: High

    Current Standing: Second in East

    Head to Head: 0-3

    Scoop: The Heat lost all three regular-season contests with the Bulls by a total of eight points. They're clearly two teams not that far apart.

    I like the Heat's chances against them in a series because I don't think the Bulls have the offense. Derrick Rose is a marvel at the point guard position, but with LeBron likely defending him for much of the game, can he be efficiently effective? I don't think so.

    Who is going to pack a scoring punch for this elite defensive squad? The only other two guys are Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer. Both will have to have an incredible series to have a chance.

    Potential Prediction: Heat in seven

1. Boston Celtics

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    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    Threat Level: High

    Current Standing: First in East

    Head to Head: 0-3

    Scoop: The Celtics have gotten the best of the Heat in all three battles this season. They still have one more game to go (April 10), but it's clear Boston is the better team right now.

    They play selfless basketball and have the championship experience and depth. Although I think trading Kendrick Perkins was a major mistake, they still are the biggest threat out of the East.

    Can Miami build cohesiveness by the time these teams would meet in the conference finals?

    Yes.

    But the odds of them taking out the Celtics after a potential slugfest with Chicago in the previous round, their chances become slimmer.

    The good news is the Celts are getting old and they're bound to fall off in the near future. I think the Heat would give them an epic battle but come up just short because of the Celtics' imposing size inside.

    Potential Prediction: Celtics in seven

    For more Miami Heat analysis check out MIASPORTSGUY.COM

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