Starting off the season the Miami Heat were looking at a projected top 3 pick. That was all before they went on a streak that would set the precedent for the rest of the season. The Heat have turned into something nobody really thought imaginable, especially after the unfortunate loss of Dwyane Wade, the heart of the franchise.
Going into the All-Star break, the Heat won 14 out of 16 games, with a 13 game win streak building their momentum. On January 17, they played a title contender, the Rockets and pulled out a 109-103 win that started their streak. This win took the Heat into their next two wins against the Milwaukee Bucks and the Golden State Warriors. Dion Waiters led the team in both these outings with 33-point back to back games, and the game winning shot against the Warriors.
Time and time again the Miami Heat kept winning, and at the All-Star break, there was real hope for the 8th seed in the East and a spot into the playoffs. The Heat had a tough schedule coming out of the break, were the real test would begin.
The Atlanta Hawks and Indiana Pacers were the first two teams out of the gate, both victories. Strong victories that kept momentum going, which was much needed considering they had a back to back against Lebron and the Cavs two weeks later. That back to back , never seemed to rattle the Heat at all, as they won 120-92 in the first game (with no Lebron or Kyrie), and then followed it with a 106-98 victory and this WAS with Lebron and Kyrie.
Every single day they were just getting closer to the once unreachable 8th seed in the East. After winning two more home games against the Pelicans and Timberwolves, the Miami Heat have actually gotten into the eighth seed, with a one game lead over the Pistons.
Injuries have been a repeated theme throughout the Heat’s season, and are one of the only real threats that could keep them out of the playoffs. Justise Winslow went down with a shoulder injury early in the season, and as the number 10 draft pick only two years ago, it was not the best news. Josh Richardson also took some time off when the season started as he suffered a partially torn MCL, and then even more time as he sprained his left foot. Goran Dragic suffered a gruesome eye injury after taking an elbow to his right eye in a tough win against the raptors just last week. Needless to say, they didn’t need any more of that if they were really headed to the playoffs. Unfortunately, the game against the Timberwolves did not come without a price.
The Heat’s key clutch player, Dion Waiters, went down Friday night appearing to have a serious injury to his left ankle. The injury occurred in the first half, and he didn’t return for the remainder of the game. The Heat still pulled out the win against Minnesota, but the injury looks serious.
News broke saying:
Coach Spo says Waiters (ankle) received treatment last night and this morning. There will be no MRI & there is no timeline for his return.— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) March 18, 2017
Quite the relief that an MRI wasn’t needed, but, “no timeline for return,” is pretty frightening. Although it may not be that much time, even expecting one game without their key man is crucial. Every game from here on out is vital for keeping their playoff hopes alive.
The Heat are only 3 games back of the fifth seed in the East. The Hawks currently hold the fifth spot, and with their recent loss to the Trailblazers, the Eastern Conference’s bottom half is looking very competitive. It currently stands with the Heat in eighth, Bucks in seventh, Pacers in sixth, and Hawks in fifth.
With three more home games coming up for the Heat, you would hope to see them pull out three wins and solidify that they are a real, playoff contending team. With the help of Hassan Whiteside, who has had multiple double-double games in a row, and the rest of what is looking to come a very deep bench in the NBA, the Heat have high hopes.
Tyler Johnson and James Johnson scored 23 points and 17 points in Friday’s game, respectively, and with this help from the “Johnson Bros.” The bench is one of the strongest in the league today. The deep rotation which includes deep threat Josh Richardson, and Hassan’s vital back-up, Willie Reed, can take this team a lot farther than they thought in the beginning of the season.
Hopefully, the Heat can give their fans more than they expected this season with a playoff run. It used to be all about tanking and trying to Markelle Fultz or Dennis Smith or whatever prospect in the draft but, how much sense did that make? With no 2018 first-round draft pick, could one rookie really help turn the franchise around? It just would not happen.
This team is extremely fun to watch and very exciting, and has really come into their own and played as a unit. There isn’t one main guy, and they all share the ball. Having this many go-to guys in the starting role, and off the bench, is what really gives the Heat their advantage.
So, can the Heat truly make the 5 seed? It’s a stretch. Expect them to continue playing well and continue to get better. Maybe after the tremendous turnaround season, they will be able to attract free agents. Who knows what Pat Riley has got up his sleeve. Although letting Wade free was an atrocious move, hopefully something is cooking down in South Beach. A fun playoff match-up, or even match-ups, are in the future.
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