With a current record of 44-28, the Miami Heat have been one of the more impressive teams in the NBA this season. Having failed to make it past the first round of the playoffs more than one time in the last five seasons, something about this Heat team just feels different.
Although injuries seemed to catch up to them after the All-Star break, they were able to enter the NBA restart in Orlando fully healthy and ready to build off of their dynamic start to the season.
Having already clinched a playoff berth before the season was suspended on March 11th, Miami’s eight seeding games have been all about getting ready for the postseason.
With seven of their eight seeding games already complete and a first round match-up against the Pacers on deck, it’s a great time to review the Heat’s bubble performance to identify some important trends heading into the playoffs.
THE EMERGENCE OF TYLER HERRO
After being selected with the 13th pick of the 2019 draft, Tyler Herro’s game has sent shockwaves around the league. He was enjoying a productive rookie campaign before play was suspended, averaging 13.2 points and 4.1 rebounds a game for the Heat before an ankle injury ruined his stride.
The NBA hiatus gave him ample time to recover and he entered the NBA restart in Orlando fully healthy while taking his game to another level. The 20-year-old guard is averaging 17.4 points and 5.1 rebounds per game while shooting an elite 51.5 percent from the field in Orlando.
Aside from the increased production, Herro has also shown tremendous improvement as a primary ball-handler for Miami, displaying the ability to put the ball on the floor to create for himself and his teammates.
His strong play in the bubble has certainly sparked the debate on whether Herro should replace fellow rookie Kendrick Nunn in the starting lineup moving forward, which is a tough decision that head coach Erik Spoelstra should feel fortunate he has to make.
If Herro can bring his current level of play and confidence into the postseason, the Miami Heat will be an even more dreaded match-up for opposing teams.
KEEPING A FOOT ON THE GAS
Despite their impressive season, one of the more frustrating flaws crippling the Miami Heat has been their inability to close-out games. All throughout the season they would jump out to a large, double-digit lead only to see it evaporate for good with one unfavorable swing of momentum.
It got worse in Orlando and Miami has blown 20-point leads twice in their last four games. As a matter of fact, Miami’s 115-116 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night was their 4th loss this season after leading by 20 or more points, leaving them tied for most such losses over the last 20 seasons.
Granted, Miami’s starters rested during the entire second half but the point still remains, the Heat will have to do a better job of keeping their foot on the gas if they expect to advance in the playoffs.
WILL SMALL-BALL WORK IN THE POSTSEASON?
During the first part of the season, Miami’s starting lineup of Kendrick Nunn, Jimmy Butler, Duncan Robinson, Bam Adebayo and Meyers Leonard was the sixth-most successful lineup from a plus-minus standpoint.
Heading into the seeding games, Spoelstra surprised everyone when he discarded that lineup, replacing forward Jae Crowder for center Meyers Leonard. At the moment, it’s kind of hard to argue against that decision as Jae Crowder is shooting 41 percent from downtown on seven attempts per game with Miami.
Now with no true big-man down low, Spoelstra and the Heat are relying on their three-point ability to win them games. That has certainly shown to be true as Miami has attempted 40.1 three-pointers per game, good enough for sixth-most in Orlando.
Even more strange is that Leonard, Miami’s only true center, has logged exactly 18 minutes of playing time combined throughout all of the Heat’s seven games, with all of the minutes coming in Wednesday’s loss to OKC after registering DNP-CD for the Heat’s first six seeding games.
With Miami surely to get out-rebounded by bigger teams in the postseason, they truly will live and die by the three. A bold move by Spoelstra at this point in the season but having sharpshooters like Robinson, Herro and now suddenly Crowder certainly improve their chances of success.
With Miami’s first round matchup against the Pacers already set, it’s likely we don’t see any starters play in Friday’s seeding-finale. Although the Heat do possess some glaring weaknesses as a team, the tenacity and grit of Heat Culture will allow them to compete with anybody.
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