With the 2022 NBA regular season about to come to a close, the Miami Heat have just about locked up the number one spot in the Eastern Conference. This will be important for them, as it secures home-court advantage for them against any opponent in the Eastern Conference throughout the playoffs.
In a playoff atmosphere, the Miami Heat’s fans should provide a great boost of energy to the team. Securing the top spot could also mean avoiding the Brooklyn Nets in the first round, who would be a tougher opponent to beat than most others.
Looking ahead at the remaining games in the regular season, the Miami Heat play the Raptors, the Hornets, and the Hawks next week. While Toronto has gained a lot of ground recently and has risen to the sixth spot in the East, the Hawks and the Hornets are ninth and tenth, respectively.
This means that with the new play-in tournament format, either team could be in the eighth spot for the playoffs. That also means that those regular season games will be a sneak peek of what we can expect from the Heat this postseason.
Although the seeding is not official, the teams will recognize their position, and the game will probably have a playoff-like atmosphere about it. Here are some things to watch out for in each game.
Along the Miami Heat’s way to finally securing the East’s top seed, they’ll have a unique group of games to close the year, facing potential early playoff foes.
Miami Heat vs. Toronto Raptors
Although it is more likely than not that the Heat and Raptors avoid each other this postseason, it is still possible that they play each other in an early round. The Heat will need to stretch their defensive tactics in this matchup.
The Raptors have a lot of forwards and tall players who can be on the court together at the same time, while stretching the floor and producing at a consistent level. Miami will also need to watch out for Fred VanVleet, who has greatly improved his three-point shooting.
Miami Heat vs. Charlotte Hornets
Although the Hornets are a good team offensively, they lack the defensive consistency to help them win enough games to get very far in the playoffs. Expect players like Tyler Herro and Jimmy Butler to have big scoring games if these two teams face each other in the playoffs.
Miami Heat vs. Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks are still a very young team. This season has not gone as expected for them, but anything could change in the postseason.
This is especially true as long as they have Trae Young, who has proven he is a star who can step up his performance in the postseason. Last year, the Hawks made it to the Eastern Conference Finals on the back of his stellar play.
Even as a lower seed this year, the Hawks will still be hungry to reach the NBA Finals and should be a challenge for anyone in their way. They will definitely be a competitive opponent.
The Heat need to continue to play their game against the Hawks, not allowing Trae Young to control the game. The Miami Heat have bigger aspirations than the first round this year though.
So, while their first round matchup should be one part of their path to the Finals, it isn’t the end all be all. However, they cannot expect to easily walk through the Eastern Conference either.
They need to treat each game of each series like everything is on the line. These next few games give them that very opportunity against some of their potential opponents there.