The 2021 NBA regular season is almost complete, and the Miami Heat find themselves in the playoff mix once again. Heat fans hope to reach back-to-back finals, but the Heat needs much more than hope if they are to win their first championship in eight years.
The Heat was exceptional during the 2020 NBA playoffs. They bulldozed through the Indiana Pacers 4-0 in the First Round before demolishing the Milwaukee Bucks 4-1 in the Conference Semifinals. A 4-2 victory over the much-fancied Boston Celtics in the Conference Finals set up a mouth-watering clash against the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals, but the Heat came unstuck and ultimately lost 2-4 to the better team.
Everything pointed to another successful campaign before the 2021 season began. Players were happy, and Heat fans looked forward to the season. Even online bookmakers were confident of Heat’s success with the bet365 Canada sportsbook pricing the Heat as second-favorites behind reigning champions, the LA Lakers.
Heat Roster Ravaged By Injuries
The Heat has endured a miserable time with injuries and COVID-19 related issues. Star center Jimmy Butler only played in eight of the Heat’s first 20 games with an ankle injury, in addition to entering the NBA’s health and safety protocols.
Victor Oladipo missed 17 games through COVID-19, while Tyler Herro (18) and Goran Dragic (19) also missed a significant part of the season. Oladipo then picked up a knee injury and has only managed four games since his trade from Houston Rockets in late March.
The disruption to the team has had a negative effect on how the Heat performs on the court. Heat ranked seventh in the NBA for offense during the 2019-20 season but are the eighth-worst this time around. Likewise, Heat rank 24th in the league in the 3-point percentage category (35.1%) compared to second last season.
2020-21 has been an unremarkable season, to say the least. The efficiency of players, especially Tyler Herro, has been a serious issue. As has the fact Heat has struggled against teams they should, on paper at least, brush aside. Heat has underperformed against opponents with winning records, too; they are 11-21 against teams above .500.
Heat has gone 6-1 in their previous seven games, a welcomed run of form that resulted in them clinching a playoff place with three games to spare. They take on the Philadelphia 76ers in their final home fixture of the season on May 14 before heading to the Milwaukee Bucks on May 15 and finishing the regular season at Detroit Pistons on May 16. How the Heat performs against the 76ers and Bucks will give a good indication of the team’s playoff chances.
Heat Tend To Perform During the Playoffs
If last season’s playoff run taught us anything, it is that the Heat can shine when they need to. They went into the 2020 playoffs, having gone 3-5 in the final but excelled when it mattered and became worthy finalists. Heat fans have their fingers crossed that the same happens in 2020-21.
Heat’s NBA championship chances hinge on whether a trio of their biggest stars plays to the best of their abilities. Oladipo is out of contention after undergoing surgery on his quad injury, piling more pressure on the likes of Dragic, Herro, and Butler.
Bookies price the Heat as the eighth-favorites for NBA Championship glory, some way behind the likes of the Brooklyn Nets, Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, and the surprise team of the season, Utah Jazz.
We are hopeful but not confident the Heat can turn their flagging fortunes around and get the job done in the playoffs. Unfortunately, as things stand, they need to excel during the business end of the season while hoping the teams around them falter.