5 Biggest questions facing the Miami Heat for the playoff push

Plus four more of the biggest storylines to monitor over the Miami Heat's final 27 games.

Miami Heat v New York Knicks
Miami Heat v New York Knicks / Mitchell Leff/GettyImages
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Can the Heat escape the play-in tournament?

For the next 27 games, avoiding the play-in tournament should be near the top of Miami’s list of priorities. (The other would be staying healthy, as we’ve already established.)

Yes, the Heat made it to the Finals after an appearance in last season’s play-in tournament, but they were a Max Strus eruption late in their second play-in game against the Chicago Bulls away from their postseason run ending before it began.

The play-in tournament is too unpredictable, too liable to variance, to flirt with an early exit again.

The Heat (30-25) will resume the season a half-game behind the Indiana Pacers (31-25) for the sixth seed in the East. The 76ers (32-22) are 2.5 games up. The Knicks (33-22) are three games up. 

Basketball-reference.com only gives the Heat a 31.3% chance of finishing with a top-six seed, but the remaining schedule is reason for optimism.

The Heat have the league’s seventh-easiest remaining schedule when accounting for opponent win percentage and rest advantage, per Positive Residual.

Compare that against the teams the Heat are chasing in the standings – the 76ers (26th), Knicks (22nd) and Pacers (13th) – and it looks like the schedule breaks Miami’s way.

Injuries also threaten the positions of those in front of the Heat in the standings. 

The 76ers don’t know when Embiid will return from a knee injury; and the Knicks are dealing with ailments to Julius Randle, OG Anunoby, Bojan Bogdanovic and Mitchell Robinson, among others.

If the Heat can maintain the high level of play they entered the All-Star break with and get key players back from injury soon, they could climb the East standings and set themselves up for another postseason run.