Although the Miami Heat are currently sitting atop the Eastern Conference with a record of 40-21, they remain overlooked by many as one of the NBA’s best teams. Could the Heat be one of the biggest “sleepers” to win a championship as the number 1 seed in their conference?
Starting Lineup and Chemistry
The core starting lineup of Kyle Lowry, Jimmy Butler, Duncan Robinson, P.J. Tucker, and Bam Adebayo have played together 23 games and went 17-6. This is more than double of the 11 games that the second place Chicago Bulls have played together.
For the Heat, trust and chemistry seem to go a long way, especially on the defensive side of the ball. The Heat rank sixth in the NBA on defensive rating (107.5) behind only the Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics, and Golden State Warriors.
Let Sleeping Dogs Lie
The term “sleeper” tends to be subjective to most. While the Heat certainly don’t consider themselves sleepers, it seems like a lot of others do.
Shaq: “You can’t judge either of this teams (Lakers, Nets) because they’re not at full strength.”— Austin Maida (@Maida904) January 26, 2022
DWade: “Shaq what does that mean? The Miami Heat haven’t been at full strength all year and they’re in first place.”
Our King 👑 🔥 @ChefTrillie_ @jeremytache @HeatvsHaters pic.twitter.com/02Q5hxIgUq
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; actually, it could be advantageous. Especially when they meet a team that expects to come into a cake-walk of a series.
Anyone remember what happened the last time the Heat were written off in the playoffs? Giannis probably does.
With the rest of the league focused on the Brooklyn Nets, Milwaukee Bucks, and Philadelphia 76ers, the Heat have the opportunity to surprise once again and take the East.
Many players have stepped up this season and improved their level of play, both familiar faces and new recruits alike. Hopefully these quiet improvements will become loud in April.
The Boy Wonder may be the most impressive improvement from the 2020-21 season. After a dud of a series against the Bucks in the 2021 playoffs, Tyler Herro exploded to begin the new year, averaging 20.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 3.9 assists off the bench while shooting 37.8% from deep.
Herro has embraced his sixth man role with open arms, while putting himself in a great place to win the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award.
What Tucker brings to the Heat lineup is something not measured by stats but by heart. He’s one of those players that fans can’t stand watching their team play against, but love watching play for their favorite teams.
Tucker’s grittiness and willingness to do whatever it takes to win is what pushes him over the top. Not to mention he’s shooting a career best 49.7% from the field and 45.4% from deep.
With Tucker’s championship mentality and experience, the Heat have as good a shot as ever to win the East and come back to Miami with the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy.
Get Ready to Rumble
With only 21 games left to play, the NBA Playoffs are right around the corner for the Heat. Home court advantage isn’t easy to come by in the playoffs.
If the Heat can remain hot to close out the season, it would be the first time since 2013 that they finish as a number 1 seed.
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