There are few good teams that fly under the radar quite as much as the Indiana Pacers. The team has been consistently solid for the past decade, but outside of a couple trips to the Eastern Conference Finals, they have not been seen as a serious threat come playoff time. With each of the Pacers' last five seasons ending in...
The Miami Heat Are the Most Feared Team in the NBA Playoffs
Last night, the Boston Celtics lost to the Jimmy Butler-less Miami Heat. During the game, I was talking to a friend who happens to be a Miami Heat fan and, I was sure the Celtics, locked in a crucial battle for the 3-seed, would take advantage of the absence of Jimmy Butler and secure a much-needed victory but I was wrong. He was right as most Miami Heat fans have been all season, in trusting that a team of overlooked players would win big game after big game. The Heat proved once again as they have all season that they are arguably the deepest team in the NBA.
Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson are already two of the best shooters in the NBA. Kendrick Nunn, 15 points per game, is about to set the NBA records for most points per game by an undrafted rookie. Bam Adebayo is a first-time All-Star and arguably the NBA's most improved player. Goran Dragic is a potential sixth man of the year. The additions of Jae Crowder and Andre Igoudala has added some much needed veteran presence. And oh, Jimmy Butler is silently having his best season since he left Chicago. The combination of all these factors gives the Heat some unique advantages.
They are just one of two teams with at least six players averaging over 12 points a game (only playoff team).
Their team three-point percentage of 38.2% leads the NBA.
Two NBA All-Stars in Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo.
While these are all reasons to fear the Heat, the real reason they are the most feared team in the NBA playoffs is what they are able to do against the league's best teams.
Where virtually every Eastern Conference team struggles against teams above .500, the Miami Heat are an exception. As of today, the Bucks and the Heat are the only two Eastern Conference teams with a winning record against teams above .500.
Where the 76ers (12-19), Celtics (14-15), and Raptors (13-14) all struggle against the best teams in the league, it turns out the Miami Heat actually plays their best basketball against the best teams, evident by a 16 and 11 record against teams above .500. Of course, you would expect a team like that to be higher than 4th in their conference, but their struggles against teams below that threshold is a discussion for next season.
The NBA Playoffs are about beating the best of the best, and in the East, only the Bucks and the Heat have shown they can do that consistently.
That's the kind of dominance you expect from the Bucks. But, surprisingly, the Heat are tied with the Bucks for the third-best record in the league against teams above .500.
A few years ago, I wrote an article on how Jimmy Butler could only ever achieve peak success on a team of players like him. A roster of hard-working, overlooked underdogs, raring to prove themselves to the world.
He has finally found that in this Miami team packed with undrafted rookies, overlooked players, exiled players, gritty veterans, and an underrated coach. This Miami team is the real deal.