What happened in last night's 98-85 loss was exactly what you expected: just another loss with players missing in this injury-riddled season. Not only was Dwyane Wade out but due to an ankle re-aggravation, Miami's biggest surprise Hassan Whiteside was also out. So last night became a a night where the Heat's biggest story line was whether or not to extend Tyler Johnson's stay.
So what now? The team is now 9th in the East and the rest of the season looks like a battle to get back into "the dance" as Chris Bosh stated, but even if Miami gets back in, the Heat are the team without dancing shoes or proper attire to even fit the evening. Sure Johnson may have secured his spot for the remainder of the season, but if he's the leading scorer on your team....you're team isn't going to the playoffs.
At the beginning of the year, the experts over at ESPN and other networks predicted the Heat to go anywhere between 3-6 depending on health. This season certainly has been a roller coaster ride of injuries but even in the few times Miami has had more of a complete roster, they've underachieved. So what now?
I myself predicted the Heat would be #4 in the East, capable of winning its division before losing in the second round to somebody named LeBron. This roster at its best, especially with the finding of Hassan Whiteside can be great in this conference at their max potential. You have an elite athlete in Dwyane Wade who facilitates for guys like Whiteside and Bosh. There are players like Josh McRoberts who could make plays for slashers like James Ennis, Luol Deng and Johnson. Instead of having a team that can give a run to the Bulls or Cavs, it's a team with players that suddenly forget how to inbound a ball.
The plot twist here is that even if Miami misses the playoffs for the first time since 2008, they likely won't get a lottery pick for 2015. For the Heat to get that lottery pick, it needs to fall in the top ten of the draft. That's something Pat Riley's ego will not allow, especially since having learned from the failure of sucking then drafting Micheal Beasley to suck some more. So Miami is terrible...but not terrible enough to be rewarded for their terribleness. Sounds like the Dolphins right?
21-29. After an ugly win in Boston, there were three ugly losses in a row. Unable to win on the road and they have no idea how it feels to win at home. A lot of complimentary pieces are here but due the overall team health (the latest being Udonis Haslem) the Heat seem to be in a place where losing seems almost normal now. And it's not like this team is purposefully tanking the way the Cleveland Cavaliers seemingly did after LeBron left. No, this season has become a series of unfortunate events that makes all of Heat Nation cringe at the fact that one time during the Spurs game coach Erik Spoelstra countered with a lineup of Justin Hamilton, Chris Bosh, James Ennis, Tyler Johnson and Norris Cole...in the 2nd quarter. So what now?
For four years Miami considered the first round of the playoffs almost as exhibition. Blowouts and sweeps were what you expected and for the first time in a while...it'll be Miami that will probably be on the other end of a blow out. Do I have hope? Sure I do. There's a checklist that starts with Whiteside and ends with Wade though if this team wants to make that late season surprise run.
Hey I get it. I love this team just as much as you and as a team, I'm sure this organization want's to get back into the dance. But right now its a team that will enter this dance two left feet, a noticeable limp and shortness of breath.
The playoffs are a rhythm. The Heat are severely off beat.
So what now?