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Playing Musical Chairs: Could the Miami Heat miss the playoffs?

For all the doom and gloom that the last several games have been for the Heat it might soon be time to draw a collective breath, step back and take a look at what needs to be done going forward. But first, some perspective is needed on the Heat’s recent slide. Yes, the Heat right now are playing some of their worst ball this season but it’s happening during a stretch of 23 games in 38 days with 16 of those on the road. Are the Heat just plain bad or can some of the recent sluggish and lackadaisical play be a result of this? During these 23 games, 6 games were played on the second nights of back-to-back sets losing 5 of them. Only once in that span did the Heat have 2 full days of rest between games and that came between the conclusion of a 6 game Western Conference road trip with the Heat playing 1 home game before leaving Miami again for 2 more road games. Beyond the schedule however, the Heat are facing the reality that although they’ve been inconsistent from game to game, they’re remarkably consistent in being average. The season totals speak for themselves: a virtual tie between the Heat and their opponents in total points scored (4926/4932), rebounds (2086/2072) and assists (955/962). So while it’s obvious that the team seems destined to play .500 ball, is that enough to make it into the playoffs? The Bulls, Bobcats and the Raptors are all teams that started out weakly and have now leapfrogged the Heat in the conference standings. And while the Bucks started out strong and began fading through the course of the season just like the Head did, they’ve been making strides lately and easily beat the Heat last week in a home-and-home series. The good news? That’s about it as far as competition goes in the East. If you add the top 4 teams in the East (Cavs, Celtics, Hawks, Magic) to the mix you only get 9 teams that are realistically vying for 8 playoff spots. The Sixers, Pacers, Pistons, Knicks, Wizards and Nets aren’t going anywhere and seem to have little chance of catching the rest of the teams in the standings. It was only a few weeks ago that the Heat seemed perfectly content in settling into the #5 spot for the duration of the season. That’s a sobering reminder that perhaps it’s best not to get too wrapped up in the standings in the middle of a long season. While it’s certainly possible that the Heat are the ones left without a chair when the season ends, it’s also likely that some if not all of their closest division rivals will soon come back down to earth too. The Heat’s mantra, unveiled at the start of the season and before every home game, is "good enough, ain’t enough" which seems a bit too overzealous now. Even though we don’t know which teams will be going to the playoffs we at least now know that being average just might be "good enough".