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3 Reasons why Miami Heat can be the surprise contenders in the NBA Playoffs 2020-21

Miami Heat leader Jimmy But
Miami Heat leader Jimmy But
ANALYST
Modified 01 Apr 2021
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Going into the NBA playoffs last season, few expected to see the Miami Heat run all the way to the Finals, leaving the Milwaukee Bucks, Indiana Pacers and Boston Celtics in their wake.

Erik Spoelstra's side showed a togetherness that was at the core of their championship challenge and even though they ultimately lost to the Lakers, he couldn't have asked for much more against LeBron's dominance.

While the Miami Heat's return to action has been quite polaric from their bubble heroics, they stand firmly in the mix for a postseason berth and will once again don the badge of underdogs.

Therefore, we have decided to compile the three main reasons why the Heat can be a menace to any opponent in the playoffs and why ultimately the East's top-3 will want to avoid Jimmy Butler and co.

3 reasons the Miami Heat have what it takes to challenge in this year's NBA playoffs

Sitting 1.5 games behind the fourth seed in the East, the Miami Heat have recently been tipped to be the closest rivals to the powerhouse 3 atop the conference in the playoffs this season.

With a new star in town and their defensive shape returning, we will break down 3 key areas in which they can do so.

#1. Recruitment of Victor Oladipo

The Miami Heat acquired Victor Oladipo on the trade deadline
The Miami Heat acquired Victor Oladipo on the trade deadline

Miami Heat president Pat Riley pulled off yet another business masterclass last week by bringing in Victor Oladipo and keeping the likes of Duncan Robinson, Tyler Herro and Goran Dragic, who had all been mentioned in trade rumors.

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While the 28-year old had made it known the Miami Heat were his desired landing spot prior to moving to Houston, the two sides went right up until 3PM E.T. last Thursday before pushing the deal through.

Playing 20 games for the Rockets this season, Oladipo averaged 21.2 points, 5 assists and 1.2 steals. During that time, the former 2-time All-Star looked to be back at his pre-injuries best and will be the boost in offensive energy the Heat need.

Having three All-Star caliber players in the same starting lineup should propel the Miami Heat into consideration for the Eastern Conference Finals.

Oladipo is the perfect leader on both ends that the Heat have been looking for in their inexperienced backcourt, where Tyler Herro is likely going to drop to the bench as a sharpshooting sixth man.

He has been the league's steal champion, most improved player and was in the All-Defensive team of the Year in 2018. His addition should make rivals stand up and be wary of the Miami Heat.

#2. Defensive solidity

Miami Heat
Miami Heat's Precious Achiuwa fights for loose ball
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Although the Miami Heat had prolific three-point scorers in last season's playoffs, their success was built on the defensive end first.

In their conference semi-finals with the free-scoring Bucks, the Heat held them to 106 points in each of their 5 matchups. Even in the Finals, they held the Lakers to just 110 points per matchup.

With both Brooklyn and Milwaukee ranking inside the NBA's current top-5 offenses and Philadelphia back in 12th, the Heat's defense is going to be their first point of attack in any matchup.

Since the All-Star break, the Heat rank 11th in the league for defensive rating and 2nd for the lowest points in the paint conceded thanks in large part to Bam Adebayo.

This season, they rank 6th for defensive efficiency and 2nd for field-goals allowed. They are excellent at competing for shots and have held a staggering 17 opponents to under 100 points this season.

With two of the league's leading steal merchants in Jimmy Butler and Victor Oladipo, the Miami Heat are going to be a nightmare to come up against on offense.

#3. Experience gained from last campaign

Miami overcame Boston in a six-game Conference Finals series
Miami overcame Boston in a six-game Conference Finals series
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In what has been sporadic success for the Miami Heat over the last 6 seasons, last year was the first time they had made it past the conference semifinals since the glory years at the start of the decade ended in 2014.

Coming into the business end of the season, however, the Heat will rely on the experience gained from the bubble and the key assets they held onto in the trade windows.

Miami have an excellent mix of younger stars in Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro, along with veteran leadership in the locker room such as Butler, Andre Iguodala and Trevor Ariza.

They know what it takes to make a run and build on those performances and only have to look at their small forward to know what it takes to leave it all out there on the court and be a relentless competitor.

Don't be surprised if the Miami Heat relish their tag as underdogs and come out all guns blazing in the playoffs to prove the NBA wrong once again.

Published 01 Apr 2021, 03:56 IST
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