The Miami Heat surprised and impressed many last season due to their historic postseason run. The Heat ended their game-changing season with a 4-2 series loss to LeBron and the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals. As the new season closely approaches, many people are calling the team’s previous run a fluke, but there are overwhelming signs, all pointing to the future growth of the Heat.
Before last season was paused in mid-March, Miami sat at 4th place in the Eastern Conference Playoff Picture. After the eight bubble games in August, the Heat dropped to 5th in the standings and were set to face the Indiana Pacers (4) in the first round of the 2020 NBA Playoffs.
In the first round, the Heat quickly took care of business sweeping the floor with the Indiana Pacers in four games.
Heading into the second round was a matchup with the soon to be reigning back-to-back league MVP Giannis Antentekounpo’s Bucks. Some determined fans thought the Heat could pull through the upset but many still had their bets placed on the Bucks. The Heat absolutely demolished the Bucks, beating Giannis and his squad in just five games.
Moving onto the Eastern Conference Finals, the Heat were once again considered under-dogs, this time against the Boston Celtics. Once again the Heat dominated, finishing the Celtics in a competitive six game series. The Celtics were considered to be a bad matchup for Miami many arguing they were a more talented squad. However, the Heat outplayed the Celtics several times late down the stretch in games, which allowed them to clinch their spot in the Finals.
On their way to the NBA Finals, the Heat had garnered a record of 14-2 in incredible fashion.
In the NBA Finals, they faced the Los Angeles Lakers who were predicted to win, and the Heat finally faced a loss, losing four games to two. For most of the series, the Heat were without their second and third best players — Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic — due to injuries and yet somehow still took the Lakers to six games, due to the prowess of Jimmy Butler.
We’ll never know if the Heat could have taken down the Lakers if their top players were on the court. Regardless, they pushed the Lakers to six — when some thought it would be a quick sweep against the Heat.
Looking back at this amazing run, was it a fluke? In a short answer, no. A fluke could be four games but not 14 wins. Miami, led by Coach Erik Spolestra dominated their way in the playoffs sweeping the Pacers, demolishing the Bucks, and beating the Celtics in six.
In the bubble there was an even playing field, really no home-court advantage due to the absence of fans. While it’s true the bubble benefited the Heat because of the way their organization is built from top to bottom, it was once again an even playing field, may the best team win. Another reason the bubble benefited the Heat was because of their struggles on the road prior to the league shutdown. The Heat had a record of 14-19 on the road before entering the bubble.
However this advantage does not solely support the claim the Heat’s run is a fluke.
The team representing the 305 proved they were the best team in the Eastern Conference last year. Erik Spoelstra led this team to playing their best basketball year and it was wonderful to see. Spoelstra furthered his case as a Hall-of-Fame coach by adapting and scheming differently to shut down opposing teams.
The Heat’s defense shut down the MVP and overwhelmed the Celtics. Jimmy Butler took charge, expanded his game and came up clutch in several moments. We saw Bam Adebayo dominate and rookie Tyler Herro explode for 37 in an Eastern Conference Finals Game. The Heat were prepared to take down any team they faced on their run to the finals as they made their first Finals appearance since 2014.
The Heat organization strives themselves in instilling a culture which is well known across the league and they put it on display for everybody to see.
As the off-season rolled around the Heat did not make any drastic changes to last year’s team. They re-signed Goran Dragic, Meyers Leonard, and Udonis Haslem. However they did lose two key players, Jae Crowder and Derrick Jones Jr, both important components in their postseason run. To make up for these losses the Miami Heat went out and signed Moe Harkless and Avery Bradley. In addition, they also had previously drafted Precious Achiuwa. In some way the Heat slightly improved by getting bigger and also signing a great defensive guard.
The Eastern Conference will also be tougher next year. Even though we don’t know how the KD and Kyrie Nets will work, they will still be a good team. The Bucks have Jrue Holiday although losing pieces, the Philadelphia 76ers also improved by surrounding Simmons and Embiid with more shooters, the Celtics look to build on from last season despite losing Gordon Hayward and other teams look to contend for a playoff spot.
Regardless of opinions, Miami earned their way to being the Eastern Conference Champions and making the Finals, nobody can say otherwise. This year they will only be hungrier, their young core consisting of Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo among others is only improving, and don’t forget it was only year one of Jimmy Butler.
Don’t count this Heat team out again they are looking to capitalize on last year’s run and this time win it all.
Photo: The Athletic