Say what you will about the San Antonio Spurs or the Washington Wizards being the hottest teams in the NBA. Right now, the biggest story is really the Miami Heat. Some time ago, the Heat looked like a non-factor in the Eastern Conference Playoff race. They were sitting on an 11-30 record, and looking out of luck. Injuries plagued them, as did a stretch of simply bad basketball.
But then something happened on Jan. 17 against the Houston Rockets, and carried over the next few weeks. Dion Waiters exploded. Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic found a way to translate their form into wins. A switch seemed to be flipped somewhere. It also helped that the team’s health took a turn for the better. The result? A 13-game winning streak, which still stands as the league’s longest this season, and overall a 21-5 record since mid-January.
Are The Heat Really This Good?
Perhaps the two biggest signature wins of the Heat along this stretch were against two of the league’s finest – last year’s Finalists. Against the Golden State Warriors, Waiters hit the winning shot toward the games closing moments: a strong indicator of the Miami Heat’s potential clutchness.
Against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Heat also outplayed former Heat superstar LeBron James, creating a huge statement about what might happen should the two teams face off in the first round. Dion Waiters once again was the difference maker in this game, scoring 29 points. But Goran Dragic came up big in this game too, as well as Wayne Ellington, unexpectedly.
Cohesion seems to be the name of the game, here: With most of its club members finally on board, the Heat have found a groove that eluded most other healthy teams this season. It looks like the Heat really was this good after all; we just never got to see it, on account of the injury bug.
Of course, not everything is still A-Okay in South Beach, in terms of the injury list: Justise Winslow and Josh McRoberts are both unlikely to set foot on the court again this season, and Goran Dragic’s eye is swollen badly.
But Erik Spoelstra is leading the way. The Eastern Conference Coach of the Month has found confidence in the team’s recent resurgence. It’s hard to stop a train once it picks up momentum, and injuries aside, the one from Miami has picked up speed.
Where do the Miami Heat currently stack in terms of the Playoffs? Here’s what the bottom of the Easts Playoff picture looks like now:
- 6th Place – Indiana Pacers – 34-32
- 7th Place – Detroit Pistons – 33-33
- 8th Place – Milwaukee Bucks – 32-33
- 9th Place – Miami Heat – 32-35
As you can see, the Heat are a mere 2.5 games behind the 6th place Pacers, who managed to keep some breathing room by beating them Sunday night.
However, given the current hot streak of the Heat, and with about 15 games left to go in the regular season, the Heat will have a few chances to actually climb as high as 6th place by the time the postseason begins. If they miss out on that, there’s still a great chance that they hopscotch right over the Pistons or Bucks for 7th or 8th place. All they’ll need is for Giannis Antetokounmpo or perhaps Andre Drummond to run into a few bad games and seize the opportunity.
We could actually see a 1st Round Cavaliers-Heat match-up. How about that for National TV?