Revamped Miami Heat Host Familiar Playoff Foe


The Miami Heat (34-39) are clinging to the 7th-seed in the playoff but face a red-hot San Antonio Spurs team (47-26) that is gaining momentum at just the right time. Can a depleted Heat team hold their own against a familiar postseason opponent?

Start Time: 8:00 p.m. EST
Location: Game will be played in Miami at the AmericanAirlines Arena
TV Info: TNT
Radio: 104.3 The Ticket

When these two teams last faced each other in Miami, it was during the NBA Finals in June 2014, what seems like a lifetime ago. Much has happened to the team that calls the AAA home and this season alone has seen more transformations than Optimus Prime. Meanwhile, the San Antonio Spurs just continue to find ways to win and people still find a way to ignore what they’ve done.

The Spurs have won 13 of their last 16 games, including three in a row by an average margin of over 23 points – that’s not just winning, folks, that’s downright dominating. And yet, once again, San Antonio doesn’t seem to have any buzz about it despite this familiar pattern of late-season excellence.

Conversely, the Heat are trying just to make it to the end of the season without losing any other players – an injury report sent out yesterday had no less than eight players (over the half the team) listed on it. Even if Miami were at full strength, handling the Spurs would be a difficult challenge.

Then again, if this season has taught me anything it’s that there’s no way of predicting what happens next to this Miami team.

Hassan Whiteside‘s lacerated hand should be healed sufficiently for him to play on Tuesday, as early reports indicate. That will be a welcome addition, particularly on defense; the Spurs have shot 50 percent or better in four of their past seven games.

The key, of course, is Dwyane Wade. As points out, Wade is averaging just 14.3 points per game in the last seven matchups with the Spurs. Since most of these games happened on national televesion (as does Tuesday’s game), Wade’s lack of production has fed much of the “washed-up” narrative that has dogged him for years. Still, he’s averaging 30 PPG and 51.7 percent shooting in his last eight games in Miami so there’s hope that he’ll bounce back and remind everyone that he’s still going strong.

Just as it was during the Finals, much of San Antonio’s recent success has been because of Kawhi Leonard: he’s averaging 18.7 points on 51.8 percent shooting over the last six games and the Spurs are 22-4 when he scores at least 17 points in a game. Miami’s best chance of limiting Leonard is Luol Deng, who sat out the second half of Sunday’s win over Detroit due to a knee contusion. Deng is listed as questionable but is expected to start on Tuesday.

Still, the challenge is clear and it’s one that Udonis Haslem (who had season highs of 18 points and 13 rebounds versus the Pistons) points out the Heat is well aware of:

"“You always have to get up to play the Spurs. I don’t know what their situation is in the West, but in my mind they’re still the best team in the NBA. We’ve got a huge, huge task ahead of us on Tuesday.”"

That could be the understatement of the year. With just nine games left to the regular season and tough games on the road during the rest of the week, tonight’s contest is a must-win, particularly with just 1.5 games separating the Heat from an early end to their season.

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