Anything could happen with the Miami Heat in the playoffs. Franchise history suggests, however, that not much will.
I know, I know, you don’t want to hear this right now, not with the Southeast Division championship banner soon to be hung from the rafters at AmericanAirlines Arena, and not with home-court advantage against Charlotte in the opening round.
A 48-34 record is pretty great, right, considering the Heat did it without Chris Bosh for a huge chunk of the regular season? That’s an 11-game improvement over last year. Dwyane Wade got through it, too, without missing many games which means he won’t be limping into the playoffs this time.
The problem is, Miami teams with 50 or fewer wins haven’t previously shown themselves as strong enough to make any real noise in the postseason. One series victory and seven first-round losses, that’s the hard truth of it for Heat playoff teams in that category.
In other words, that showdown with LeBron and the Cavs that everybody wants is far from guaranteed.
Every season is different, of course. Every annual lineup of Eastern playoff teams is different based on their relative strengths and the overall depth of the conference.
There are no super teams in the East this time around, though, and that includes the Cavs. The No. 8 seed, Detroit, finished six games above .500. It’s a tight pack overall, which suggests a tough slog for the Heat or any of their rivals, from the opening series on.
Look at the meat of the order, the No. 3 through No. 6 seeds in the East. All four teams finished with the same 48-34 record. As for Miami’s opening assignment, the Heat the the Hornets split four games during the regular season. If there’s an edge here, it’s tiebreaker-thin.
Putting a more positive spin on the thing, nobody’s going to care about regular-season records once the playoffs begin. It will be a matter of which teams get hot at the right time, and which stars come up with big buckets or big stops in the closing seconds of numerous tight games.
Open the net a bit wider and there’s a 52-30 Heat team, roughly as successful as this one in the regular season, that went on to the NBA title. That was 10 years ago, with Wade and Shaquille O’Neal and with mighty Alonzo Mourning coming off the bench, and it changed the way the world looked at this franchise forever.
That group was locked up 2-2 with Chicago in the opening round and in danger of flaming out like so many others. It’s a fine line, all right, when all the lousy teams have already been eliminated and all the easy wins removed from the schedule.
So take this for what it’s worth. Miami is due for a scrap in the opening round. Appreciate the opportunity. Try not to look ahead. Even if this goes well and the Heat earn a later meeting with LeBron, there’s a long and potentially frustrating fight between here and there.
Nobody wants to say that out loud, but you can beat that Wade and Udonis Haslem will begin to shout it in the locker room now that the long hard push for home-court advantage in the first round is completed.
Results of Miami playoff teams with 50 or fewer regular-season wins
Yr Record Coach Result
2010 47-35 Spoelstra Lost 1st rd (Boston in 5)
2009 43-39 Spoelstra Lost 1st rd (Atlanta in 7)
2007 44-38 Riley Lost 1st rd (Swept by Chicago)
2004 42-20 Van Gundy Lost 2nd rd (Pacers in 6)
2001 50-32 Riley Lost 1st rd (Swept by Charlotte)
1996 42-40 Riley Lost 1st rd (Swept by Chicago)
1994 42-40 Loughery Lost 1st rd (Atlanta in 5)
1992 38-44 Loughery Lost 1st rd (Swept by Chicago)
(Note – The NBA champion Miami team of 2011-12 Heat won 46 regular-season games in a scheduled shortened by a lockout)