Miami Heat: 10 Reasons Why They Shouldn't Worry Heading into the NBA Playoffs
The Miami Heat have no need to worry when the time comes for the NBA playoffs.
At 45-21, the Heat are sitting in third place in the Eastern Conference—and only three games behind the first-place Boston Celtics.
Moreover, they have achieved this despite a poor start to the season, during which Miami lost just under half of their first 17 games.
And led by their All-Star big three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, there is no doubt that the team is one of the most talented squads in the league.
Nevertheless, there are still doubters.
So, in an attempt to silence those doubters, here are 10 reasons why the Miami Heat shouldn't worry heading into the NBA playoffs.
No. 1: Back on Track
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Much ado has been made about the Miami Heat's recent five-game losing streak.
Yet, one has to realize that all good teams go through these types of stretches.
During the 2010-11 NBA season, two other top teams, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Dallas Mavericks, experienced substantial losing streaks, of four and six games, respectively.
Nevertheless, like both the Lakers and Mavericks did, the Heat have gotten back on track, winning their last two games.
And they weren't just any two games either.
First Miami defeated the defending-champion Lakers, taking control late to win by six and end the team's eight-game winning streak.
Next, the Heat blew out the Memphis Grizzlies to the tune of 118-85.
So with two victories over teams in the Western Conference playoff picture—LA is in third, Memphis is in eighth—it seems as though Miami has righted the ship and are now ready to head into the playoffs with confidence.
No. 2: Chris Bosh's Resurgence
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At the end of the Miami Heat's losing streak, Chris Bosh spoke out to the media, stating his displeasure with his role on the team.
In doing so, Bosh made it clear that he needed to start getting the ball down low, rather than simply standing around and settling for the occasional jumper.
And since making there comments, he has stepped up his game drastically.
During Miami's last two wins, Bosh averaged 22 points per game—despite only playing 32 minutes in the blowout win over the Memphis Grizzlies.
Moreover, during those two games he is shooting 60.7 percent from the field, his highest two-game mark of the season, and well above his season percentage of 48.9.
But gaudy numbers aren't all that he has brought to the table recently, as Bosh has been more aggressive on the court and has been fully living up to his role as the third member of the big three.
And his imposing presence on the court also helps to free up his teammates—a fact which will allow the Heat to succeed at the high levels initially expected of them.
No. 3: The Return of Udonis Haslem
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On March 10, Miami Heat forward-center Udonis Haslem was finally back on the court after being medically cleared to shoot jump shots.
So it appears that now, after tearing a ligament in his left foot in November and undergoing surgery, Haslem can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
At this point, he is expected to make a full return in early April—when his presence will undoubtedly provide a boost to the Heat.
First of all, the hometown player's contributions off the bench will be invaluable when the playoffs roll around, as Miami has had one of the least-productive backup units in the league thus far.
Moreover, Haslem's physical, interior style of play will solidify the team's frontcourt, giving some relief to aging centers Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Erick Dampier.
But most of all, the return of Haslem will help the Heat since he could step in and immediately become the team's toughest player and best at cleaning up inside, while also serving as the fourth scorer.
Consequently, when this already talented team gains a player who might be their best outside of the big three, they should be just fine heading into the postseason.
No. 4: Mike Bibby's Acclimation to the Team
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The Miami Heat signed Mike Bibby on March 2, and since then, he has only played in six games with his new team.
And as a point guard, Bibby will undoubtedly need some time to begin to become acclimated with his teammates.
Nevertheless, in Miami's most recent victory over the Memphis Grizzlies, he started to show some signs of fitting in, dishing out four assists to go along with 17 points on five-of-five shooting (all from three).
So if Bibby is truly beginning to gel with the Heat and if he can continue to put in strong performances, then the team should definitely see an increase in their level of play from here on out.
And with a starting point guard firing on all cylinders, the Miami Heat will certainly look like a dangerous team as the playoffs approach.
No. 5: The Size of the Miami Heat
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If there is one thing that the Miami Heat have an abundance of—besides superstars—it's size.
The team has two starting-caliber true centers in Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Erick Dampier, who are 7'3", 260 pounds and 6'11", 265 pounds respectively.
And even though these two have seen their play decline with age—both are 35 years old—they are still effective in limited minutes.
With his size and length, Ilgauskas is a more-than-capable shot blocker and rebounder.
Furthermore, with his midrange game, he is able to draw opposing big men out of the lane, opening things up for his slashing teammates LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
Dampier, for his part, is a less polished offensive player. But for whatever he lacks on that end, he makes up for on defense.
On D, Dampier uses his strength to bully opponents for positioning and his long arms allow him to be an imposing shot-blocking threat.
And while these players alone give the Heat a size advantage over many teams, Ilgauskas and Dampier aren't Miami's only large threats.
Forward-center Joel Anthony, although only 6'9" and 245 pounds, is a fantastic defender against non-traditional centers and is tenacious on the boards.
Reserve bigs Jamaal Magloire (6'11", 255 pounds) and Juwan Howard (6'9", 250 pounds) are also able to contribute when called upon, and the play of 6'11", 235-pound Chris Bosh and 6'8", 235-pound Udonis Haslem have already been discussed in this slideshow.
So with Ilgauskas, Dampier, Anthony, Magloire, Howard, Bosh and Haslem all lining up inside, the Miami Heat have the kind of front line which often produces results when the playoffs arrive.
No. 6: The So-Called Flaws of the Miami Heat
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The Miami Heat have frequently been criticized by analysts due to their unimpressive performances in both close games and games against teams with winning records.
However, when one looks closely at these statistics, they will find that neither of them are really that damning in the end.
First, with regard the Miami's performance in close games, the team is 2-8 in games decided by three games or less.
However, this is a rather arbitrary statistic, because there are many close games which, because of late free throws or meaningless points, are decided by more than three points.
Furthermore, the Heat lead the NBA in point differential by scoring an average of 6.9 points per game more than their opponents. Therefore, it seems as though the Heat prefer to win by a wide margin, not allowing their opponents to get too close—which is obviously a good thing.
Now let's turn to Miami's record against plus-.500 teams, where the Heat stand at 16-19.
Miami dropped eight of these games before December—during a period when the newly constructed team was struggling to play together.
From December on, the Heat are 12-11 against winning teams, with all but one of their losses coming during two cold streaks; one in which the lost four of five and the other being during their most recent slump, where they dropped six of seven.
And since Miami has won their last two games—both against winning teams—it's safe to say that they are out of that funk.
Moreover, seeing as though their next four games are all going to be against plus-.500 teams, the Heat will have a chance to prove that they can knock off the NBA's best as they head into the postseason.
No. 7: Early Playoff Matchups
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At this point in the season, it appears that the Miami Heat will most likely face off against either the New York Knicks or the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the playoffs.
Now the Heat split the four-game season series against the Knicks; however, one of their losses was without Chris Bosh in the lineup—something which makes them a much weaker squad.
So speculating that Bosh had participated in that contest, it's fair to assume that Miami would have won, rather than dropping a tightly fought, five-point decision.
And if that were the case, then the Heat would have a record of 3-1 against New York, which would look much more convincing.
Furthermore, when looking into the individual matchups, things swing further into Miami's favor.
The Heat have a much bigger team than the Knicks—who have no true center on their roster—and they can easily exploit New York inside.
What's more, Miami has done a decent job defending Knicks All-Star Amar'e Stoudemire, holding him well below his season scoring average and field goal percentage in their four outings.
And when one realizes that the only reason that New York won the last outing was due to an absurdly dominant late-game performance by the aging Chauncey Billups—which is unlikely to happen again—it seems as though the Heat should not have too much trouble with the Knicks.
Now turning to the 76ers, Miami has won both games in the season series by nine and 10 points, respectively.
Moreover, they won both games prior to December, when the Heat were struggling to stay above .500.
So in the playoffs, with a more-experienced and healthy team, Miami should make short work of the Sixers.
No. 8: Underdog Mentality
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Everyone knows that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh make the Miami Heat a very talented team, and because of this, many people expected the team to win from day one.
What's more, they even became the favorites to win the NBA Championship and there was talk about them breaking the mark for best regular-season record.
However, the Heat stumbled out of the gate and, although they are still one of the better teams in the NBA, they have really failed to impress too much.
Moreover, their lofty expectations haven't helped them when facing teams like the Chicago Bulls and Boston Celtics—both of whom are 3-0 against the Heat on the season.
And as a result of this, the Heat are no longer thought of with anywhere near the high regards which they had accumulated prior to the season.
Consequently, should Miami advance past the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, where they would likely be matched up against either the Bulls or Celtics, they would be expected to lose.
But that is not necessarily a bad thing.
With the pressure of winning finally on someone else, the Heat could thrive in the role of the underdog, seeking to knock off either or both of the favored squads.
And this prospect certainly helps their chances as the playoffs approach.
No. 9: LeBron James and Dwyane Wade
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Regardless of what has occurred this season, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are still two of the best basketball players in the NBA.
Currently, James and Wade rank third and fourth in the league in scoring, first and third in player efficiency rating, and second and sixth in win shares.
Furthermore, they have 14 All-Star appearances between them, 11 All-NBA nominations, five All-Defensive team selections, and LeBron is the two-time reigning MVP of the league, while Wade is a former NBA Finals MVP.
And with two players of this caliber on their team, the Miami Heat should not worry too much as they head toward the postseason.
No. 10: Now or Never Doesn't Apply
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When LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined Dwyane Wade in Miami, they cited the potential to win multiple championships as being their sole motivating factor.
As a result of this, people expected immediate results.
However, if the Heat don't win this season, their goal is still attainable, given that Miami's big three are still relatively young and they all signed six-year contracts.
Therefore, if unsuccessful this season, they can always work to improve during the summer and come back better than ever for the next campaign.
Regardless of how people may judge the Heat based on this one season, they will always have the power to change their image with future performances.
Consequently, Miami does not need to adopt a now-or-never approach heading into the postseason.
And without the worry of never getting a chance to earn a title, the Heat should be able to concentrate simply on playing their game and doing their best on the court—which would actually give them their best chance to win.