The 2022-23 rendition of the Miami Heat is nearing the end of their historic NBA Finals run. and a lot of it is due to the excellent leadership of head coach Erik Spoelstra and team president Pat Riley.
There's only been one eighth-seeded team that has made it to the NBA Finals, and that's the New York Knicks in 1999. They started it off by upsetting the Miami Heat, sweeping the Atlanta Hawks, and eliminaing Indiana Pacers in six. The team would then bow down to the San Antonio Spurs, beginning their own dynasty of five championships.
The 1999 Knicks' run was remarkable, but a case can be made for the Heat's playoff run, led by Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, to be much more difficult. They started off on the brink of being ousted from the playoffs after losing to the Atlanta Hawks in the Play-In Tournament. After that, they had to face Giannis Antetokounmpo and the first-seeded Milwaukee Bucks, the team that was heavily favored to make a deep run. Then after a gritty six-game series with the current Knicks, the Heat was able to stop a 3-0 comeback of fierce rival Boston Celtics.
But it's not just Butler's playoff revelation or the Heat's willingness to win. A lot of it boils down to the coach Spo and Pat's leadership behind the scenes, as explained by Jamal Crawford on NBA TV:
— NBA TV (@NBATV) June 7, 2023
“We've all played for great coaches. How many coaches have we seen use what you can't do well against you? [Erik Spoelstra] uplifts that. He figures out a way,” Crawford says.
Crawford praises Erik Spoelstra's utilization of zone defense, a type of defense that was deemed ‘taboo' in the current league. He points out how the Heat uses three different variations that confuse opposing teams and prevent them from truly running their offense.
“And then, oh, by the way, Pat Riley went to 19 Finals as a player, as a coach, and as an executive? He's been 20 to 25 percent of the league championships he's been involved in. So that knowledge is coming to the forefront as well,” Crawford added.
The Miami Heat have created a system, a culture that the players and the organization have bought into, and it has rewarded them tremendously with what they have accomplished. All that is left is to finish the job.