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Everything You Wanted To Know About the Heat in the Playoffs (But Were Afraid To Ask)

The Miami Heat are now at 8-3 this March and are looking more and more like a playoff team as the season nears its end. Only 11 games remain for the Heat with the next 3 games against the very teams that are battling for playoff positioning in the East. First it’s at Chicago this Thursday followed by the conclusion of the current road trip against Milwaukee the next day and the week wraps up with a home game against the Toronto Raptors on Sunday. After that it should be smooth sailing ahead for the Heat as they only face Eastern teams that are lottery-bound with the slight exception of one game at Minnesota which has the worst record in the West: Detroit (twice), Indiana, Philadelphia (twice), New York and then the regular season finale against the poor New Jersey Nets as they try to avoid infamy as the worst NBA team ever. The Heat are tied in the loss column at 34 games with the Raptors and the Bobcats while the Bucks look like they have the fifth seed almost wrapped up and the Bulls are on the outside looking in with a recent 10 game losing streak finally snapped with victories against the 76ers and Rockets. The Raptors have been struggling as well the last 30 days with 10 losses sprinkled with wins against the Knicks, Atlanta and punching bags New Jersey and Minnesota. Judging by their recent strong play and the easy schedule, it’s a fair bet that the Heat should make the playoffs but the question remains as to what position they end up with and who their first round opponent would be. With the records of the Heat, Bobcats and Raptors so similar to each other (as well as possibly the Bucks and Bulls) there is a likelihood that these teams will finish with the same record. ESPN NBA Truehoop editor Kevin Arnovitz helpfully listed all the tiebreaker scenarios that should be enough to make your head spin. Two-Team Tiebreaker:
  1. Division winner (this criterion is applied regardless of whether the tied teams are in the same division)
  2. Better record in head-to-head games
  3. Higher winning percentage within division (if teams are in the same division)
  4. Higher winning percentage in conference games
  5. Higher winning percentage against playoff teams in own conference
  6. Higher winning percentage against playoff teams in opposite conference
  7. Higher point differential between points scored and points allowed
Three-Team Tiebreaker:
  1. Division winner (this criterion is applied regardless of whether the tied teams are in the same division)
  2. Best head-to-head winning percentage among all teams tied
  3. Highest winning percentage within division (if teams are in the same division)
  4. Highest winning percentage in conference games
  5. Highest winning percentage against playoff teams in own conference
  6. Highest point differential between points scored and points allowed
If the season ended right now the Heat would be facing the Boston Celtics who hold the season series 3-0, which would have been 2-1 if the Heat knew how to defend the basket with half a second left at the end of a game. There’s also a question of whether it’s beneficial to get the highest (or lowest) seed if it means facing a team that has given the Heat the most problems during the regular season. Check back soon for a more detailed analysis of the Heat’s matchups with likely opponents Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavs and the Orlando Magic. What about you, the faithful Hot Hot Hoops reader? What’s your preferred matchup and why? Which is the last team you’d want the Heat to face in the first round. Do the Heat even have a chance to get to the second round? [caption id="attachment_1072" align="aligncenter" width="408" caption="What, Me Worry?"][/caption]