What is the Best Playoff Matchup for the Miami Heat?


April 18 marks the start of the NBA playoffs, and most Miami Heat fans and critics alike have one question on their minds: what will happen during the postseason?

Since I have already evaluated the start of the yearreviewed the team mid-season and since then, it is now time to focus on the future.

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For the sake of this article, Miami is making the playoffs. As of Wednesday afternoon, the Heat stand at the seventh seed with a record of 32-38. They have 12 more games to go, six at home and six away. And although the Boston Celtics are right on their heels, and the Charlotte Hornets are not far off either, I am keeping the faith. I know someone out there will try to fight me on this, but like I said: this is my article and the Heat are going into the postseason.

Now that we have gotten that out of the way, I have two things on my mind regarding Miami’s role in the playoffs.

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First, if I could have them match up against any Eastern conference team of my choosing in the first round (a la Bleacher Report), who would it be?

Let me start with who I would not like them to go head to head with. Coming in at the number one spot for that would be the Atlanta Hawks. While I would happily watch Kyle Korver drain threes all day, and love seeing TI sitting court side, the Hawks are nothing but trouble for the Heat.

This season, Miami is 0-3 against Atlanta, unable to keep up with them both offensively and defensively. Only a handful (if that) of rotations would even stand a chance in this matchup, and with the plethora of injuries the Heat consistently have to put up with, that is definitely not something to count on.

Taking on the Chicago Bulls, though a fun series for me personally, would also not be favorable. So far they are 1-1 against one another, but it goes beyond just wins and losses; the weird history between these two teams often gets in the way of the actual game itself. Dwyane Wade is from Chicago. Joakim Noah hates Miami. Luol Deng played for the Bulls. Derrick Rose never quite fits in with the rest of the superstars. The tension arising from this particular duo yields unpredictable play, and after a season full of turbulence, that is the last thing the Heat need.

On the other hand, I would love to see them take on the Cleveland Cavaliers. The rivalry is obvious (will anyone on Miami ever forgive LeBron James for leaving them in the dust?) but unlike what I was referring to above, it leads to healthy competition. All three of the games this season against the Cavaliers have been exciting, starting with the Heat win on Christmas day. James walked away with 30 points and 8 assists (Kyrie Irving had 25 points) and yet, Miami (and Wade’s 31 points) snuck past them by 10. The Heat may have lost the next one but guys like Hassan Whiteside (who finished with 17 points and 14 rebounds) certainly kept developing their game. And fast forward to less than two weeks ago…Miami took Cleveland 106-92, with Wade once again stepping up; he finished with 32 points, on 13-of-18. Their battles so far this season are reminiscent of a playoff series already.

The Heat versus the Toronto Raptors, though boring, would also be favorable. They are tied currently, and too seem to have their fair share of issues lately. Kyle Lowry is not healthy, and that could be a huge problem. Obviously there is still time for that to improve but something like back spasms tend to be a reoccurring issue. Lou Williams has not been performing to the best of his abilities recently either. Mix those factors in with the fact that Toronto gives up the most points per possession, and end up sending opponents to the line frequently and well…Miami has a chance. Plus I guess there is that whole Chris-Bosh-used-to-be-a-Raptor thing?

My second point of ponder however is what the Heat need to do until the playoffs begin. For one, it would be great if the injuries could just cease. During Tuesday night’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks, Whiteside sliced his hand open on the rim, and will now have to give it some time to heal. Meanwhile, Chris Andersen has a calf contusion and Wade is now suffering from a bruised knee. In other words, this ish never ends. And not only is it a problem due to the sheer loss of bodies, but the continuous change in rotations makes it hard to hold a consistent strategy. Otherwise, playing every game through is huge. Regardless of the score, or of trends happening on the court, Miami has to keep pushing until that final buzzer sounds off. It is do or die right now, and they need to play harder than they can even imagine. Leaders like Wade need to set the pace for the rest of the team, physically and mentally. And trust between guys is imperative.

The regular season is almost over, but by then everything could change. What will the Heat’s playoff fate be? Only a handful more games and we can begin to answer that.

Next: Young Hassan Whiteside's Almanac