After their Cinderella run to the NBA Finals in the bubble last year, the Miami Heat got off to a sluggish start in 2020-21, for a variety of reasons. The quick turnaround likely didn’t help, while COVID-19 and other health issues inflicted the roster, including star Jimmy Butler.
The Heat hit their low points in February, holding a 7-14 record toward the start of the month and an 11-17 mark midway through the month. Even with all the health problems, many wondered whether the bubble run was a fluke.
Based on how Miami is playing right now as the playoffs approach, the franchise is clearly ready to prove it was no fluke.
The Heat have won four games in a row and seven of eight after a dominant 106-94 victory over the top-seeded Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday night. Miami controlled the game from the start and flustered the Sixers’ offense with a zone defense while scoring at will against an elite defensive unit. MVP candidate Joel Embiid had one of his worst games of the season with just six points on 3-of-9 shooting.
After that rough start, the Heat are now up to 39-31 on the season, which is good for the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference. They could potentially get as high as No. 4 or drop back to No. 6, with the Atlanta Hawks and New York Knicks also locked in this battle for seeding. Based on Thursday night’s game, sticking in that 4/5 round and having a shot at the Sixers in the second round is an awfully juicy proposition.
Miami is kicking things into high gear at just the right time with the playoffs starting in about a week. Butler, when healthy, has been a two-way monster all season, and we saw what he can do at the peak of his powers in the bubble. Bam Adebayo is a Defensive Player of the Year candidate who only continues to grow offensively.
Of course, the Heat know what to expect from their two stars.
When the other guys get going, that’s when it’s really uh-oh time for the opposition. Tyler Herro hasn’t made the leap many hoped this season, but he has been simmering over the last month and looks primed to do more playoff damage. Goran Dragic is healthy and ready to unleash the dragon again. Duncan Robinson is one of the most dangerous 3-point threats in the NBA. Trevor Ariza has taken over Jae Crowder’s role from last season.
After struggling for much of the season, Miami’s offense has come alive in recent weeks, even boasting the best offensive efficiency in the NBA so far in May. The other guys stepping up to help the stars has been a huge boon, making the Heat a dangerous foe come playoff time. We know how gritty their defense can be, especially with that flummoxing zone, but Miami hits a new ceiling when the offense is clicking.
The Heat are doing this despite big trade deadline acquisition Victor Oladipo being a huge flop. Oladipo suffered another injury not long after the trade and is out for the season. That hasn’t stopped Miami from getting hot.
There’s an argument to be made that the Heat are the most dangerous threat to the Brooklyn Nets in the East. The Nets are the clear favorite, but if Miami reaches a matchup against them, it would be fun to watch. Unless, you know, Brooklyn just goes Super Saiyan on everybody, which shouldn’t be ruled out.
Still, the Heat are cooking at the perfect time, and Erik Spoelstra’s crew looks ready to do their thing in the playoffs once again.