Miami Heat NBA Bubble Restart Preview
MIAMI HEAT (41-24), 4th place Eastern Conference
Where are they now: The Heat would seem to be entrenched as the No. 4 seed with just eight regular-season games remaining. They are 2 ½ games behind the 3-seed Boston Celtics and 2 games ahead of the Indiana Pacers and Philadelphia 76ers.
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However, the Heat do play two games against the Pacers as well as three games against the top teams ahead of them – the Celtics, Toronto Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks. The Heat will need to be in playoff form to keep the Pacers and Sixers in their rearview.
Miami Heat First Half Highlights
The Heat’s hot start to the season was a surprise but no fluke. Behind burgeoning stars Kendrick Nunn and Bam Adebayo as well as key offseason acquisition Jimmy Butler, the Heat were winning games in chunks en route to a season-best 19 games over .500 on Feb. 3 (34-15).
Then the Heat hit a snag, dropping seven of nine games sandwiched around the All-Star break. During the stretch, the Heat suffered bad losses to the Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers and Minnesota Timberwolves.
But they regained their footing, rattling off a four-game winning streak before losing two of their final three heading into the unexpected break. The Heat last played on March 11, dropping a 109-98 decision to the Charlotte Hornets at home on the night it was announced the season would be suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Miami Heat NBA Bubble Roster Rundown
All 17 players opted to play the rest of the season and the Heat haven’t had to make a single roster adjustment. However, Nunn and Adebayo are not yet with the team at the Walt Disney World Resort. The Heat had three players test positive for COVID-19 but only Derrick Jones Jr. granted permission to have his name released.
The Heat would not comment specifically on Nunn and Adebayo, only to say that players not currently with the team near Orlando had an excuse not to be.
Adebayo (16.2 points per game) and Nunn (15.6 ppg) are two of the top four scorers on the team.
Jimmy Butler leads the team with 20.2 points per game, 6.1 assists per game and 1.7 steals.
Duncan Robinson is the team’s top 3-point shooter, making 3.7 per game and shooting at a 44.8 percent clip.
Miami Heat NBA Bubble Playoff Outlook
The Heat are going to get playoff-tested from the jump when they restart against the Denver Nuggets on Aug. 1 at the Walt Disney World Resort.
In fact, seven of the Heat’s eight games are against playoff teams, with their game against the Phoenix Suns the only one that has yet to play their way in.
Miami seems to be locked into the No. 4 seed, though the Heat will have to fend off the Indiana Pacers, whom they play twice. With no real home-court advantage, it doesn’t much matter whether the Heat are the 4 or 5. However, the Heat defeated the Pacers in both meetings prior to the pause of the season.
The Heat and Sixers do not play in the eight-game sprint.
Miami will have to win a majority of their games to catch the No. 3 Boston Celtics, whom they play in Game 3 on Aug. 4. But the Heat have games against the Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, Oklahoma City Thunder in addition to the Pacers and Suns.
The healthy returns of Nunn and Adebayo will be key in the restart and playoffs.
ESPN’s playoff projections give the Heat just a 2 percent chance of overtaking the Celtics for the No. 3 seed. ESPN gives the Heat a 70 percent chance of remaining at the 4 seed with a 20 percent chance of dropping to No. 5.
Assuming both advance to the second round, the Heat would bring some confidence into that series against the Bucks. The Heat were 2-0 against the Bucks before the pause with Adebayo playing a huge role in helping to contain Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Adebayo’s 6-foot-9 frame and superb quickness gave Antetokounmpo fits on March 2, when the Heat held the reigning MVP to his worst game of the season to that point – 13 points on 6-for-18 shooting from the floor.
Miami Heat NBA Bubble Best Bets
The odds are not with the Heat to win the Eastern Conference let alone the NBA championship. The Heat are plus-900 to win the Eastern Conference title, according to Sugar House futures, and plus-1000 (Caesars).
Caesars has the Heat at plus-4000 to win the NBA title while Sugar House has them at plus-3000.