The Miami Heat would have their own historic season if they make the NBA Finals this season. In 1978 the then-Baltimore Bullets won their only NBA championship after a pedestrian .543, 44-38, regular-season record. The catch was they needed to win only 10 games through three playoff rounds to capture the crown.
In 2003 the NBA raised the ante to 16 wins over four series for the trophy. These higher barriers made capturing the ultimate prize more difficult as shown below.
|YEAR||WINNER||LOSER||W PCT||L PCT||DIFF|
The last nine winners had percentages of 0.695 (57 wins) or better. Of all the underdog champions, the Heat pulled off the biggest upset ten years ago against a team with a better record. They'll try to do it again this season.
History shows NBA teams need to win at least 60% of their regular-season games to make the Finals since 2003. As of today, if the Heat win the Eastern Conference Finals with a 58% winning record, they will achieve NBA immortality in the new playoff format era.
Sports List of the Day points out only two teams seeded fourth or more, the fourth-place 1969 Celtics and sixth-place 1995 Rockets, have ever won a championship trophy. This includes 69 years of post-season action since 1947. The third seed carries a special significance, because after the 16-win mandate in 2003, not a single team outside the top three seeds has won a ring.
Can a team made up of former All-Stars (except Dwyane Wade) and rookies, winning games at only a 50+% clip, defeat the best-of-the-best in the "real season?" There is one possible, though highly unlikely, route for an upset in the making.
Win on effort, not talent.
The mantra of thinking talent alone was good enough to win was the team's downfall during the recent west coast trip. Knowing teams with .700 records or greater have more talent than the Heat, then a facing that stark reality leaves winning through desperation in last five games as the only strategy.
For veterans on one-year contracts such as Amar'e Stoudemire, Joe Johnson, Gerald Green and Luol Deng, who prefer Miami as their final destination, then the last nine-plus games have extraordinary importance to them. Every missed shot, rebound and assist could be a costly missed opportunity. Look for them to give career performances, because there may be no tomorrow to win it all.
Heat believing they were more talented than their rivals was a toxic mix for Miami during this season. Knowing no team seeded outside a top-three won a conference championship in this century serves as a sobering reminder of how the second season cannot be taken for granted like the first one was, for the results to end differently. Losers in April and May go home empty-handed, with little to show for their season's work.
The loss of Chris Bosh could have ruined the season, but two rookies and a buyout saved it. As of today, Miami may win 10 more games than last season, which hopefully could salvage the season and earn a place in the history books.
Josh Richardson was recognized as the March Kia Rookie of the Month. He has a three-year age advantage over Justise Winslow. That helps explain why his mechanics are more advanced. Winslow right now can be deadly with his full-court coast-to-coast runs as the Pistons game clip shows.
Once Justise learns the art of shot fakes from veterans like Luol Deng, he will be smooth and crafty as Deng was on the outlet pass shown below. Time will refine Winslow's game skills.
The Sioux Falls Skyforce serve as friendly competition with Miami to see who winds up on top. The Skyforce defeated the Westchester Knicks 109-95 to start the playoffs, lead by the double-doubles of Jarnell Stokes and DeAndre Liggins. Briante Weber disappointed in that game on 2-9 shooting and 3 turnovers.
The game film of Liggins 11 assists shows how active the Skyforce are on offence. They rarely use the 3 attackers versus 5 defenders sets the Heat employ, where two men idly stand at the corners while 3 guys dribble the ball back and forth around the key. Notice the activity of all five Skyforce players darting through the painted area without 3-second violations. No one stands still, the corners are empty and two men are at top of the key to get back on defense.
Skyforce additions know the Heat system and are in game shape. The Heat have done well with D-league alumni Richardson, Hassan Whiteside (aka King Lego) and Tyler Johnson, although Tyler may be rusty with his extended time off.