The Eastern Conference has been divided by the top six teams that are serious contenders to reach the conference finals — the Heat, Raptors, Bucks, Sixers, Pacers and Celtics. In fact, those are the only winning teams in the East.
The Heat have had their chances at each of those teams, and with the NBA hopefully returning and a playoff shortly after that, we thought we would take an advanced look at how they matchup with each team.
The Milwaukee Bucks
No team in the East frustrated the Bucks like the Miami Heat. It appeared early in March that the Heat had a real chance of sweeping the Bucks in the season series. I also think that matched up in the playoffs Miami had a possibility of stretching the series out and possibly taking things in a game seven.
Miami matched up very well with the Bucks, with Bam acting as the primary Giannis stopper similar to the way the Raptors used Kawhi in the playoffs last season. The Bucks allowed the most three pointers in the league a few weeks ago, and the Heat were able to exploit that. With Miami getting Herro back and Robinson playing as well as he had been I feel like the Heat could have given them a lot of trouble. By the time of a playoff series, Crowder and Iguodala would have also found their rhythm offering more options on defense to slow down Milwaukee’s in the paint dominance. The Bucks are an elite team, and Finals favorites but the way Miami has battled this season I definitely give them a 50/50 chance especially if the series went to seven.
PROBABILITY OF A HEAT SERIES WIN: 50%
The Boston Celtics
The Celtics shot well from long range and played solid defense in two wins against the Heat this season and would no doubt be a tough opponent for them in the playoffs. The final two games of the season series would have allowed fans to get a better idea of how the Heat truly measured up to the Celtics after the trade deadline but for the time being the two teams are locked into the No. 3 and No. 4 spots, which means Miami would have to beat Milwaukee in the second round before getting a chance to play Boston in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Boston is a tough team with several excellent players and a solid, yet overrated, coach but for some reason they don’t strike me as a team to truly fear in the postseason. They won 10 straight games after losing their season opener but they’ve been inconsistent throughout the season, alternating short winning streaks with some rough patches — such as losing six of eight games at one point in January and losing five of the last nine games before the season was suspended.
Having said that, the Heat have also been inconsistent and their road record (14-19) is significantly worse than the Celtics (20-12) so Miami would be at a big disadvantage without homecourt advantage. Even still, it may be irrational but I’m still giving the slight edge to the Heat because of the limited playoff experience the Celtics roster collectively has and because Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo represent unique matchup problems for them.
PROBABILITY OF A HEAT SERIES WIN: 55%
The Toronto Raptors
by Tom Wade
If the Heat are to face off against the Raptors in the playoffs then it would come in the conference semi-finals. As it is now the Heat would have seen off the Pacers while the Raptors would have got it done against the Magic. Based on this year's regular season match-ups, the Heat do in fact hold a 2-0 edge over Toronto and actually matched up against them very well.
If the Infamous Barney Raptors of year’s past turn up then the Heat absolutely have a chance of getting past them, however if the Toronto we have seen this regular season turn up then it will be a tough series. With the exception of the Milwaukee Bucks, the Raptors will definitely be the toughest of all possible opponents but the NBA Playoffs are different and a best of seven series can and possibly will go either way.
The Heat , as we all know, do hold the key in the department of how to beat Toronto but the Raptors cannot be slept on. They may have lost Kawhi Leonard but fundamentally they are still built around the guys that took down the Golden State Warriors to claim it's first-ever NBA championship. Albeit the Warriors were pretty banged up. Pascal Siakam has had another break out year and he will pose as a huge threat, Kyle Lowry is Kyle Lowry and although at times he isn't as explosive as you would like, he is still vital to how Nick Nurse wants his team to play. Then there's also Fred VanVleet off the bench, who is a very good role player in this team.
That said, for the Heat to get past the Raptors then the defensive performance that we saw from the Heat in the second of the two matchups vs the Raptors in Miami will be need to be mirrored. Guys like Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo give this Heat team a hell of a chance. The home court advantage in a potential series gives the Raptors a slight edge for me. And I mean the slightest as they come. It would be a case of who can grab hold of the series first and not let go.
PROBABILITY OF A HEAT SERIES WIN: 48%
The Indiana Pacers
by Matt Pineda
This is a tricky one to judge because the Heat have yet to play the Pacers with Victor Oladipo or Malcolm Brogdon. Their first matchup in Miami was a tight one and the Heat won, and the second was a complete blowout, but ended with fireworks with Jimmy Butler and T.J. Warren in a scuffle. The Pacers are a tough matchup.
But the Heat have the pieces to make the Pacers work. They pack the paint with Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner, so when the Heat are able to put a shooter out there in the 4-spot, it creates problems. Derrick Jones Jr. has done great against them for that reason. The Pacers are full health are a problem, and Oladipo vs Butler is a tenacious matchup. It would go the distance, but the edge would go to Miami.
PROBABILITY OF A HEAT SERIES WIN: 67%
Some expected the Philadelphia 76ers to make it to the NBA Finals this year — they lost Jimmy Butler, but added Josh Richardson and Al Horford. As we all know, the season hasn’t worked out quite that way for the Sixers. Like the Heat, Philadelphia has struggled on the road. They also faced injuries to both Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid before the hiatus.
We assume health when assessing a playoff series, though. The Sixers undoubtedly have more talent than the Heat. But the Sixers have struggled to incorporate Horford. Add in some rumors about firing Brett Brown and Embiid being “unhappy,” and the expectation that teams will be expected to go from dormancy to playoff basketball in an instant if the season resumes. Because of Miami’s probable home-court advantage and the Sixers’ drama, and I give the edge to the Heat
PROBABILITY OF A HEAT SERIES WIN: 70%