The Miami Heat have been one of the most injury-ravaged teams in the association throughout the 2023-24 season; in the 7/8 play-in game against the Philadelphia 76ers, the Heat were without Terry Rozier, leaving Miami one shot-creator short in what ended up being a 105-104 loss for the reigning Eastern Conference champion.

Now, the Heat, once again, will be slated to take on the winner of the 9/10 play-in game between the Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks, fighting with their backs against the wall similar to the position they were in a year ago. But head coach Erik Spoelstra knows that if there's a team that can catch lightning in a bottle twice, it's this gritty Heat team that's approaching cockroach levels of indestructibility.

“We will do this the hard way. That has to be the path right now. … [We're gonna] rally around each other, get ready for Friday. Embrace these competitive games. Be competitive in front of our home fans. We're going to bring a hell of a game on Friday night lights and do this the hard way, you know?” Spoelstra said in his postgame presser, via ClutchPoints Twitter.

There is concern surrounding Jimmy Butler and whether or not he can be his best self moving forward after sustaining a knee injury in the Heat's loss to the 76ers. Playoff Jimmy will have to make an appearance for Miami to not just defeat the winner of the Bulls and Hawks' game, but to potentially make life miserable yet again for the Boston Celtics.

Heat have earned the benefit of the doubt

Last year, only a few people outside of the most diehard Heat fans believed that Miami had much of a chance to go deep into the playoffs. They won just 44 games and they had their fair share of struggles plague them throughout the season.

To make matters worse, the Heat lost the 7/8 play-in matchup despite being at home and despite being heavily favored against a middling Atlanta Hawks team. Jimmy Butler did not have a good game against the Hawks, eliciting plenty of concern for the Heat as they approached win or go home territory.

But we all know what happened next. After the Heat made quick work of the Bulls in the 9/10 play-in game, they went on to have one of the most memorable underdog playoff runs of all time. They defeated the first-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in five games, with Butler playing the best basketball of his career, proceeded to take care of the New York Knicks even as Butler battled ankle problems, and nearly swept the Celtics, alternating three-game winning streaks in the Conference Finals before winning Game 7 convincingly.

Now, it's improbable that the Heat manage to go as far as they did last year. This year's Celtics team, should they win the 9/10 play-in game, will be a much more difficult first-round matchup. Jimmy Butler's status is up in the air as well. But this Erik Spoelstra-coached Miami team has earned the benefit of the doubt and they deserve respect for what they can do in a postseason setting until further notice.

How Miami stacks up against the Bulls, Hawks

The Heat went 2-2 against the Bulls this season and 3-1 against the Hawks; but if recent history is any indication, then Miami may prefer to face Chicago over Atlanta if given the choice.

Miami, after all, won their play-in game against the Bulls last season and lost against the Hawks; of course, the teams have different rosters at present, but the Heat have proven that they can get a victory in a do-or-die scenario against the Bulls. Atlanta can have plenty of variance in its performance, thanks to Trae Young and Dejounte Murray's ability to go nuclear, so the Heat may not want to tempt fate.