With the NBA seemingly supposed to return in the coming months, there’s been a lot of speculation on what the playoffs will look like. One being to match up in a true sweet sixteen scenario, and one to play the postseason with the regular conference seedings. It’s unclear which one the NBA will go for, or if they won’t just play out the remainder of their regular season games in a condensed play-in round and then determine playoff format after that. With that being said, if they’re to follow in the footsteps of the NHL we can expect the season standings to freeze and go right into playoffs. That would mean Miami would face the Pacers, or the Thunder in the first round (unless the NBA goes in an unprecedented direction). I took a look at how both matchups might play out.
I’d expect this to be the most likely scenario for when the league returns. Currently, the Heat are positioned in the fourth seed and Pacers in the fifth. This would likely result in a very competitive series, with the X-Factor being a rested Victor Oladipo. Remember, it was just two seasons ago that Oladipo and company took LeBron and the Cavs to seven games.
Still, the Heat are 2-0 against the Pacers in the season series so they’d likely be favored. It’s a playoff series that would certainly have a lot of drama, let’s not forget that Jimmy didn’t get to have his March 20th rematch with new rival TJ Warren.
The difference makers in this series for Miami would be Jimmy, Bam and Duncan Robinson. They thoroughly dominated the Pacers defense in both season matchups and it’s well known that if Duncan gets hot he can change a course of a game. He was averaging 5 threes per game over the last 10 games before the season pause. Jimmy of course, steps up in the playoffs averaging 17.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists in his 55 postseason games. If TJ Warren gets in his face, he’ll also likely be looking for new reasons to blow kisses.
The Pacers shouldn’t be taken lightly, historically they have been a pain for the Heat. They also have a solid team. Between, Sabonis, Warren, Oladipo and Turner the Heat will have their hands full. Hopefully Miami’s transitional training camp and the additions of Iguodala and Crowder will improve a defense that hadn’t performed up to part this season.
If this ends up being the matchup, this could be a renewed rivalry between the Heat and Pacers.
Oklahoma City Thunder
This would be a very interesting scenario, because it would mean an alteration of the traditional playoff structure. It would also create a difficult playoff path for the Heat. After losing Paul George and Russel Westbrook in the offseason the Thunder were not supposed to be competitive. But led by Chris Paul, who is having a renaissance year they’re a real threat.
The Thunder have nearly the same record as the Heat and have proven to be every bit as competitive. The Heat have also tried to acquire multiple members of the Thunder in Paul before the season started, and Gallinari at the trade deadline. With only one game played against the Thunder this season the sample size is relatively small to compare against, but the Thunder’s threats are obvious.
Dennis Schroeder has averaged nearly 15 points against the Heat in his career, Gallinari nearly 17, and Chris Paul also nearly 17. With surging guard, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander also at their disposal the Thunder will have no trouble scoring against the Heat. Miami doesn’t have the strongest wing defense and the Thunder’s capable shooters and slashers threaten their zone defense as well. The Thunder also have capable paint defenders in Steven Adams and the underrated Nerlens Noel which could cause Miami trouble scoring in the paint. This series, if it happens will be a war. One I’d very much like to see.
There’s no slated return plan for the NBA at this point, but there is a growing optimism that we’ll see one soon. It’s been almost three months since there was NBA action and whatever direction they decide to go in, I can’t wait to see some Miami Heat basketball.