Where do the Miami Heat stack up in the East?

Mar 19, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade (3) shoots over Cleveland Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova (8) during the second half at American Airlines Arena. The Heat won 122-101. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 19, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade (3) shoots over Cleveland Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova (8) during the second half at American Airlines Arena. The Heat won 122-101. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /

As teams gear up for the playoffs, we take a look at where the Heat stack up in the East, and if they can give the Cleveland Cavaliers a serious test.

With just a handful of games left in the season, Wes Goldberg and Chris Posada talk about the Miami Heat’s potential playoff opponents.

GOLDBERG: During this last week, the Miami Heat destroyed the Cleveland Cavaliers, then got destroyed by the San Antonio Spurs. While the top of the West is on an entirely different level, is it concerning that the Spurs wiped the floor with us? After all, every team that visits San Antonio loses, but not necessarily by 20-plus points every time.

I’m trying not to over react. We were on the second game of a back-to-back and Kawhi Leonard turned in one of his best offensive performances of his career while Goran Dragic was clearly struggling. But still, even if Dragic played well, the Heat still lose that game. I guess my concern was with how effortless it all seemed for San Antonio.

POSADA: That Spurs game was the second night of a back-to-back for the Heat, in a venue that the Spurs basically become Voltron (Spurs have only won by single-digits at home 11 times this year). The Spurs were also coming off a tough loss in Charlotte on Monday that left them with two days to stew over. Plus the Heat were without Luol Deng, so it was an imperfect storm for Miami.

(Important takeaway: the Heat matchup better with the Warriors, for those of us looking to June.)

File the Spurs game as a bad night at the office. On to the Magic, as Friday’s game begins a very nice stretch to close out the season. The Heat control their own destiny in securing the 3-seed.

GOLDBERG: Yes, a very soft four-game stretch.The Magic, Nets, Lakers and Kings all within the week. The Heat should run the table and pad their record with four more wins. Let’s talk about the East, then. Miami blew out the Cavaliers (though that game seems like a bad night at the office for Cleveland) but have lost their most recent games against the Raptors and Celtics.

In such a tight race in the East, let’s forget about record for a second. Let’s just talk about quality. Are the Heat really the third best team in the East? I think this team can go toe to toe with anyone in the conference, it just comes down to consistency. I also like Miami’s edge with Erik Spoelstra, who will be the most playoff tested coach in the tournament.

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POSADA: I think this current version of the Heat (Are we at Heat 3.0? 4.0?) is nose-to-nose with the Hornets as the 3rd best team in the East. I’m not sure what the Celtics are, and I don’t trust the Hawks.

The addition of Joe Johnson, the reinvention of Hassan Whiteside, and Josh Richardson hitting the planet like a meteor have given this team another layer they didn’t have before. Also, Dwyane Wade might have an extra chip on his shoulder going into April. Let’s say this: Toronto doesn’t concern me in a seven-game series.

And, to your point, the Heat have an ace in the hole with Spoelstra coaching in his seventh postseason appearance, and while the Heat have enjoyed playing fast in recent weeks, the playoffs are close, defensive games, which is ingrained in this franchise’s DNA. This roster is built for the postseason.

GOLDBERG: That brings up an interesting conversation: What teams scare you in the East, as a Heat fan?

I agree with you that the Hornets are scary. They play four to five out during the game and Kemba Walker may very well be the second best point guard in the East this season. Behind only Kyle Lowry. Which leads me to my next point, I disagree with you on the Raptors. They match up well with Miami, and DeMar DeRozan obliterated our defense the last time these two played. Pair that with the Raptors likely having home court advantage, and I’m concerned.

Maybe this is recency bias, but I’m not concerned with this rendition of the Cavaliers. That team is a mess. The Heat used to “flip the switch” for the post-season but that was deliberate and planned throughout the organization. The Cavaliers aren’t doing that. This is very different from the Heatles, and flipping the switch isn’t going to just happen. Again, this might just be based on how they are playing recently–they still have a 51-21 record and can win games on talent alone–but I see no proof of this team putting it together in time for a playoff run and I’m not sure a loaded roster is enough to carry them this time around.

POSADA: In my Southeast Division preview I wrote before the season, I had the Hornets finishing last in division; now I dread them in a 3-6/4-5 matchup with the Heat. The lesson, as always: I’m an idiot.

But what did encourage me about them going into the season is if Kemba Walker could take the next step. Needless to say, he’s taken it. The Nicolas Batum move has paid off big time for them, as they have another ball-handler to take some of the load off of Walker’s shoulders. Marvin Williams has been fantastic, as this new era of the NBA has revitalized his career. The Courtney Lee deal at the deadline was sneaky good. And Linsanity seems to be having success off-Broadway (Did you see what I did there, Wes? Off-Broadway? New York? Wes?). Avoiding them in the first round would be ideal.

While a seven-game series with Toronto doesn’t concern me, the Raptors are still a dangerous opponent, and since trying to avoid the Cavs will be every team’s goal in the East, going to Toronto isn’t a walk in the park. I am concerned with their possible 2-7 clash with the Pacers, as teams with veteran leadership/playoff savvy have derailed the Raptors the last couple of years, as it seems like the moment gets a little too big for them, which is an advantage the Heat have in their favor. However, this edition of the Drakes has a different vibe to them. Not having home court in the second round already is a disadvantage to the Heat, but going into a crazy atmosphere is something else entirely.

And of course, there’s Cleveland. Look, they haven’t been exactly sharp the last few weeks, with Thursday’s loss to Brooklyn standing out as jarring. But a team with You Know Who on it needs to be beaten four times in seven games and that’s a difficult task. A Miami/Cleveland showdown would ooze with drama and storylines, and it feels like You Know Who will do everything in his power to make sure the Heat don’t end his season.

But can the Heat win that series? They provide an interesting matchup for the Cavs, as they don’t really have anyone to deal with Whiteside, unless they put Mozgov on the floor. But that takes out either Love (their floor-spacer) or Thompson (their rebounder) out of the game. Deng/Winslow vs. That Guy will a fun battle of wills, the Heat’s backcourt against the Cavs may turn into a shootout. The X-Factors will be anyone else that can step up and I feel – maybe biased – the Heat have more of those guys. Johnson is as much of a big game/big moment player as there will be in that series. Richardson as a two-way threat can cause havoc (Honestly, who thought that would be a real sentence back in November?)

And the ultimate wild card is Chris Bosh. I don’t really think he’s coming back, but can you imagine if he does? Maybe plays limited minutes in home games? You think the crowd will be super-charged before? Imagine Bosh being called into the game? There would be a different kind of energy in the building.

But all of that might not matter, because the Cavs have Him. That’s playoff basketball: the best player in the biggest moments, and Cleveland will have that.

Could the Heat win? I wouldn’t be surprised. Will they? Probably not, but they’re going to go down swinging.