Ranking 4 potential Heat Play-In opponents by threat level

Taking a look at which Play-In teams would be the smallest and biggest threats to the Miami Heat.
Indiana Pacers v Miami Heat
Indiana Pacers v Miami Heat / Megan Briggs/GettyImages
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With less than a month left in the regular season, teams are jockeying for playoff position and the Miami Heat are running out of time to climb out of the play-in tournament.

“Everybody knows what it is,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “And that’s what you have to love about this time of year, when you’re in these kinds of scenarios, where you’re fighting for playoff positioning.”

The Heat need to finish in the top six in the East to avoid the play-in tournament and advance directly to the playoffs. Doing so would also mean avoiding the No. 1 seed Boston Celtics and No. 2 seed Milwaukee Bucks in the first round.

A seventh or eighth-place finish would knock the Heat into the play-in tournament, where they would get two chances to win one game and secure either the No. 7 or No. 8 seed in the East.

Escaping the play-in tournament became less likely after the Heat lost five of seven games. Now they have less than a 16% chance of earning the No. 6 seed, according to Basketball Reference. As the playoff picture gets clearer, Miami’s most likely opponents in the first play-in game are the Philadelphia 76ers and Indiana Pacers. If the Heat lose that first game, they would likely face either the Chicago Bulls or Atlanta Hawks. 

Let’s look ahead and rank these four teams by the level of threat they pose to the Heat, and how they could potentially end Miami’s postseason run before it begins.

Least threatening: Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks have managed to keep their head above water since Trae Young was lost to a finger injury shortly after the All-Star break, going 6-6 in their last 12 games. Dejounte Murray has stepped up in Young’s place, and the emergence of Jalen Johnson is about the only thing Hawks fans can feel good about.

But a threat to the Heat, they are not.

Yes, the Hawks did beat the Heat on the boards and in the first play-in game of last season but don’t expect history to repeat itself. These Hawks are worse. They are injured and seem to be on a collision course for major offseason changes. If the Hawks had the option to rage quit this season, they might.

Miami is 2-1 against Atlanta this season and its only loss came by one point thanks to a miraculous 3-pointer by Murray in the final two seconds. If these teams meet in the play-in game, the Heat should be confident in their chances of getting the win at Kaseya Center and advancing.