Miami Heat: Fifth seed wonder


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The Miami Heat made heads turn with their surprising but dominant performance in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Seeded just fifth and given a slim chance to advance deep into the post-season, the Heat, well, turned the heat on and smoked their East rivals one by one to become the most successful No. 5 seed ever, the first to make the NBA Finals.

The Heat finished with a 44-29 record, a .603 success rate  and was a game behind fourth seed Indiana Pacers (45-28) and a game ahead of sixth seed Philadelphia 76ers (43-30).

They are the third lowest seed team to advance in the NBA finals since the 16-team playoff was instituted in 1984, behind the 8th seed New York Knicks in 1998-99 and the 1994-95 Houston Rockets were seeded sixth.

Overall, there were only 10 teams in NBA history ranked lower than fourth to reach the conference finals: 1981 Sacramento Kings (5th) and Rockets (6th), 1984 Phoenix Suns (6th), 1987 Seattle Super Sonics (7th), 1989 Chicago Bulls (6th), 1990 Suns (5th), 1994 Utah Jazz (5th) and Pacers (5th), 1995 Rockets (6th), and 1999 Knicks (8th).

Only the Rockets were able to pull the ultimate upset by going all the way.

Going up one notch, there were only five 4th seed teams in history that made the NBA finals and only one of them came away with the title: the 1969 Boston Celtics, who went on to win the title; the 2017 Cleveland Cavaliers, who lost to the Warriors; the 2010 Celtics, who lost to the Lakers; The 2006 Dallas Mavericks, who lost to the Heat; and the 1978 Sonics, who were shot down by the Washington Bullets.

Of course, the 1969 Celtics were, however, was not just any average fourth seed. They were the Celtics who won 11 titles in 13 years.

The Heat virtually strolled through the East playoffs, flashing their dominance during the unbelievable run.

Miami swept Indiana (45-28), 4-0 in the first round; ousted top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks, owner of the best regular season record at 56-17,  4-1; and third seeded Celtics (48-24), 4-2.

In case you’ve lost the count, that’s a 12-3 record against teams with a combined 149-69 regular-season record of a team that is not too high on everyone’s radar of teams that can go deep in the 2020 playoffs.

The wonder would only rise if one would add the fact that they won the third game of the NBA finals without key players pointguard Goran Dragic and center Bam Adebayo.

The Heat were also a team who took advantage of what the NBA bubble provides, the non-existence of home court.

Would Miami still be this dominant if the playoffs had been held on home courts of the higher seeds? Their record before the Covid-19 pandemic points it isn’t likely.

The Heat won the first two games of all its three East series. Had these series opened on the road, the results would probably be reversed because the Bucks were 28-3 at Milwaukee this season, the Celtics were 24-8 at Boston , and the Pacers were 21-11 at Indiana.

On the other hand, Miami was only 14-19 on the road, before the suspension of play.

What GM Pat Riley, Head Coach FilAm Erik Spoelstra, Jimmy Butler and the rest of the Heat accomplished are wonderful.

It proves the regular season counts because of its home court advantage incentive and misuse of load management by players may eventually come back to bite them if their teams lose the chance to play more games at home.

Perhaps the only better performing lower seed teams than this 2020 Heat are said 1995 Rockets and the 1999 New York Knicks.

The 1995 Rockets were just 47-35 in the regular season and were seeded sixth in the West. The went on to eliminate the Jazz 3-2 in the first round, the Suns 4-3 in the West semis, the Spurs 4-2 in the West finals and finally, for the NBA title, Orlando 4-0.

Houston was the defending champion that season and the West was arguably deep that year. Three Western Conference teams won at least 59 games and another won 57.

These Rockets were headed by Hakeem Olajuwon, Robert Horry, and Clyde Drexler.

The 1999 Knicks were just  27-23 in the lockout-shortened regular season and entered the playoffs seeded eighth. They went on to send home the Heat, 3-2, in the East first round, the Atlanta Hawks, 4-0, in the East semis and Indiana, 4-2, in the East finals.

Unfortunately, the foursome of Patrick Ewing, Larry Johnson, Latrell Sprewell, and Allan Houston could not solve the San Antonio Spurs, 4-1, in the NBA finals.

By: Armando M. Bolislis