Don’t count out the Miami Heat just yet
No one expected the Miami Heat to be here.
For the first half of the year, Miami appeared lost and in disarray. As a Heat fan, I watched as they stumbled to the second-worst record in the NBA. By mid-January, it appeared that the season was over.
Yet the Heat are on the edge of a playoff berth. If Miami beats Washington on Wednesday and either Chicago or Indiana lose, the Heat will claim the eighth and final playoff bid in the Eastern Conference.
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With no Chris Bosh, no Dwyane Wade, and Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic struggling to carry the team, the Heat appeared destined to begin jockeying for lottery position with a month to go before the All-Star break.
And then the Heat won (on January 17th – my birthday – just saying).
And then they won again, going on a 13-game winning streak.
Since the start of that winning streak, the Heat are third in 3-point percentage, third in defensive rating, and are outscoring their opponents by the second-best margin in the NBA. Another key has been Dion Waiters. The Heat are 27-19 when Waiters plays, and 13-22 when he’s been out.
The influence of Erik Spoelstra shouldn’t be overlooked either. He’s solidified himself as the best coach in the NBA in my mind with this incredible performance and should win coach of the year.
Miami still needs help if they are to reach the postseason. Along with a Heat win against the Wizards, the Pacers will need to lose to the Hawks or the Bulls will need to lose to the Nets for Miami to advance. Neither loss is particularly likely. But I have faith. Why shouldn’t Wednesday night fall in Miami’s favor?
If we’ve learned anything from the past four months, it’s that the Heat thrive when the deck is stacked against them.