Today’s NBA Daily previews the playoffs for the two-time defending champion Miami Heat. The Heat are favorites to make it out of the Eastern Conference in the playoffs, but as of late, they have not been playing at their championship standard.
The Heat currently sit in second place in the Eastern Conference with a record of 48-21. Since the All-Star break, the Heat have been one of three teams (Clippers, Spurs) to rank in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency.
Despite these impressive numbers, the Heat have not been able to put together a string of victories as of late. Their victory at home against Portland on Monday marked just their 5th win in their last 12 games.
The Heat are well off of their regular pace from last season, but that is bound to happen when the previous year featured the second longest win streak in NBA history. The Heat wrapped up the regular season last year with a record 66-16 and first place in the Eastern Conference.
This season, they sit two games back of the Indiana Pacers for first in the East, with just eleven games left to play. There is still a chance for the Heat to take that number one seed in the playoffs, as the Pacers have also been struggling as of late. Whether in the first, second or eighth seed all that matters to Miami this season is whether or not they are playing for another championship when June rolls around.
Player to Watch in the Playoffs
Of course LeBron James is the best player on the Heat, and arguably the planet, but to win another championship the Heat will need key contributions from LeBron’s partner in crime, Dwyane Wade.
There is no doubt that with a healthy Dwyane Wade in the line up, the Heat are the team to beat in the East. The Heat will need Wade to play like “Flash”, much like he did in game 7 of the NBA finals last year, where he scored 23 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
The main concern surrounding Dwyane Wade heading into the playoffs is his health. At 32 years old Wade sat out his 19th game of the season during Monday night’s game against Portland. For much of the season Wade has missed games solely to rest his knees. However, his absence against Portland was due to a sore ankle that he suffered in Boston the previous week.
Head coach Erik Spoelstra has been monitoring Wade’s minutes carefully throughout the regular season in an attempt to keep him fresh for another championship run.
How Does Their Season End
Despite a rocky regular season by their standards, expect the Heat to return to form in the playoffs. Their main threat in the Eastern Conference will be the Indiana Pacers. While the Pacers have developed into an elite team, Miami still has the edge due to experience and the inspiration of claiming the illustrious three-peat.
If LeBron James continues to play at the level he has been, it will be difficult for any team to dethrone the two-time defending champs. That being said, look for Kevin Durant to carry his brilliant regular season play into the playoffs and lead his Oklahoma City squad past Miami to end their quest for a three-peat in a hard-fought 6 game series.
This will be the first of many NBA Daily Playoff Previews, so buckle up, because the playoffs are coming.
NBA Daily is a daily series providing commentary, predictions, and analysis of events surrounding the NBA.
Commentary By Eric Kummel