A team with an awesome blend of youth and experience, the Miami Heat are a whiff of fresh air in the NBA landscape. Here are 5 reasons why they could be the Eastern Conference representatives in the NBA Finals:
#1 Miami Heat have a roster with playoff experience
A team with Andre Iguodala, Jimmy Butler, Jae Crowder, Goran Dragic and Kelly Olynyk is definitely not lacking for playoff experience. Each of these Miami Heat players have had experience of navigating the sticky circumstances that playoff basketball often brings about. Their combined experience on the biggest stages will bring about an element of calm that will be lacking in other Eastern Conference teams.
Andre Iguodala is the biggest case in point. The 2015 NBA Finals MVP was traded to the Miami Heat by the Grizzlies in exchange for youngster Justise Winslow. Despite Iguodala's age and sporadically poor shooting, he has come up big-time for the Heat and is getting dunk after dunk with well-timed cuts in the playoffs.
#2 Erik Spoelstra is one of the best in-game coaches
Erik Spoelstra has been the Miami Heat's secret weapon since their Big 3 days. Always catching the heat for not having Pat Riley's personality or Phil Jackson's accolades, Spoelstra has quietly been one of the best coaches of the 2010s. The way he has kept the Heat in playoff contention despite their various roster changes in the last 5 years is quite commendable.
Spoelstra's ability to react and make quick adjustments will stand the Miami Heat in good stead this postseason. While the Heat were considered favorites by most experts ahead of their first round series, it was the result of excellent coaching by Spoelstra that they came out with a sweep against the Pacers.
In a probably playoff matchup with Mike Budenholzer, Nick Nurse and/or Brad Stevens, Spoelstra will hold the edge of leading back-to-back championship teams.
#3 The Heat have the defense to stifle Giannis
Given that the Miami Heat will next face the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference semifinals, it becomes imperative for them to plan for Giannis. It is therefore, good news that they have had the most successful outings compared to other teams in stopping the Greek Freak this season. Antetokounmpo was held to 14 points in the Bucks' loss to the Miami Heat in March.
Bam Adebayo is one of the handful of defenders in the NBA who has the physique to not get rag-dolled by Giannis in the pick-and-roll. Adebayo will need to combine with the likes of Iguodala, Crowder and Derrick Jones Jr to form a 'wall' to prevent Giannis from getting dribble penetration.
Adebayo is one of the most reliable post defenders in the NBA as well. The Miami Heat will look to be able to keep the Giannis matchup one-on-one as much as possible. They certainly have the tools to get it done.
#4 Miami are the best shooting team left in the East
It is not a fluke that Duncan Robinson, Tyler Herro and Goran Dragic have been in such great shooting form in the playoffs. The trio was performing at a pretty good clip during the season, with many considering Dragic the ideal sixth man to a young Miami Heat starting lineup.
Dragic's ability to create off the dribble for himself and for others, added to his ability to take and make non-rhythm 3-point shots, are invaluable to the Miami Heat. Herro has also been downright amazing in the pick-and-roll. He is able to get to his spots in the mid-range and execute for good playoff offense while also being a 3-point shooting threat.
Duncan Robinson is a Klay Thompson prototype who shot over 43% on 8 3-point attempts per game this past regular season. Over 87% of his shot attempts in games are from beyond the arc and Robinson is among the best floor spacers in the NBA currently. The Miami Heat also have sharpshooting big Kelly Olynyk in their lineup.
#5 The Miami Heat execute very well in close games
The Miami Heat have been one of the best 4th quarter teams in the NBA. In Goran Dragic, they have a player who can score from all 3 ranges and keep defenses on the back foot during the clutch period. Jimmy Butler, despite being woeful from the 3-point line, has the ability to get to the free throw line at will - a valuable trait in clutch matchups.
Compared to the Milwaukee Bucks, whose offense looks stale in close games and who often need Khris Middleton isos to bail them out, the Miami Heat have tons of shot creators. The likes of Kendrick Nunn, Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo are all capable offensive players and have been really impactful in the 4th quarters of games this year.
The way the Miami Heat executed in 4th quarters against the Indiana Pacers is worthy of commendation. They entered every final quarter with the lead and their offense stayed as unpredictable as it was in the earlier quarters.
Published 26 Aug 2020, 01:28 IST