Heat Clinch No. 5 Seed in Eastern Conference Playoffs After Loss to Pacers

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistAugust 14, 2020

Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo (13) reacts after making a basket against the Dallas Mavericks along with Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (22) during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Dallas, Saturday, Dec 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)
Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

The Miami Heat will be the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference when the playoffs begin following Friday's 109-92 loss to the Indiana Pacers

Miami will face the Pacers, who clinched the No. 4 seed, in the first round of the playoffs.

The Heat were 41-24 when the season was suspended on March 11, which was good enough for the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference and well ahead of the eighth-seeded Orlando Magic. In fact, Miami was 11 games ahead of the Magic and could not mathematically fall into a play-in tournament regardless of how it played during its eight seeding games.

The NBA elected to implement a play-in tournament possibility when it invited 22 teams to the Walt Disney World Resort. In such a scenario, the No. 9 seed would have a chance to defeat the No. 8 seed two games in a row to earn the final playoff spot if that No. 9 seed was within four games of the postseason following the seeding games.

Thanks to Miami's impressive play during the regular season before play was suspended, it did not have to worry about such a situation.

That means it was only playing for seeding purposes in Orlando, Florida, until the playoffs started, and it can largely point to the season-long efforts of Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo for its position.

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Butler made his fifth career All-Star Game this season, while Adebayo made his first. The pair is able to play off of each other with Butler taking advantage of defenders collapsing on Adebayo down low with timely cuts and the big man working his way into space if opponents double his All-Star teammate.

Butler is averaging 19.9 points, 6.7 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 1.8 steals per game, underscoring his ability to lead a team on both ends of the floor. He rarely hesitates to pick up the opposition's best ball-handler or wing scorer in crunch time even if he is spearheading the offense on the other end.

Adebayo's versatility has been key for the Heat, as he is averaging 15.9 points, 10.2 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 1.3 blocks a night as a double-double threat who can clean the boards from the paint and also facilitate as a deft passer.

While Butler and Adebayo are the driving force behind the team, the supporting cast of Goran Dragic, Duncan Robinson, Tyler Herro, Jae Crowder, Derrick Jones Jr., Kelly Olynyk and others means the Heat have a variety of scorers who can hit timely shots in the playoffs if there is too much defensive attention on Butler and Adebayo.

They also have a veteran presence in Andre Iguodala, and it isn't difficult to envision a combination of Butler, Iguodala and Adebayo thriving on the defensive side of the floor in critical postseason possessions.

This group may give the Heat the best chance to make significant noise in the playoffs since LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh led the franchise to four straight NBA Finals appearances from 2011 through 2014.