Evaluating the Miami Heat’s Potential First-Round Opponents

Evaluating the Miami Heat’s Potential First-Round Opponents

by April 13, 2022 0 comments

After securing the first seed last week, the Miami Heat comfortably sit at home waiting for the playoffs. Unlike most teams in the Eastern Conference playoff bracket, the Heat does not know who they will face in the first round. Instead, they will have to wait until the NBA’s Play-In tournament concludes before they know. And that won’t happen until Friday night. With the Brooklyn Nets defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday, there are currently three teams in the tournament who could potentially face Miami in the first round. Those teams are the Cavaliers, the Atlanta Hawks, and the Charlotte Hornets. With that said, let’s take a look at Miami’s three potential opponents.

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Cleveland Cavaliers 44-38

The Cavaliers had been a tough matchup for Miami all season, winning the season series 2-1. In the three games against Cleveland, Miami struggled against the Cavaliers’ size and length throughout the season. When healthy, Cleveland normally starts three seven-footers in their lineup. The Cavaliers’ size has often bothered Tyler Herro, who’s been the team’s best scorer this season. However, Miami mostly played the Cavaliers without their top players Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo.

Miami’s only victory against Cleveland came when both players appeared in the lineup. In the Heat’s victory, both players combined for 54 points which proved the be the difference. Cleveland all-star center Jarrett Allen has missed time with a finger injury, which hurt the team late in the season. The team went 7-11 without him to finish the season.  Without Allen, it gives Miami even more of an advantage.

Charlotte Hornets 43-39

If there’s one team Miami has dominated all season, it’s the Charlotte Hornets. Miami swept the season series against the Hornets 4-0. Over the four contests, Miami has won by an average of 16.5 points per game. Miami generally does great against Charlotte’s switch-heavy defense. There have been multiple possessions that Butler has taken advantage of whenever he’s guarded by a smaller defender. Miami has also had success slowing down Hornets point guard LaMelo Ball. Against Miami, Ball has averaged 12.5 points per game while shooting 35.8 percent from the field. He’s also struggled from three-point range shooting 24.1 percent from downtown. Out of the three teams, this would probably be Miami’s most preferred opponent.

Atlanta Hawks 43-39

The Heat didn’t have much trouble against the Hawks this season. Miami won the season series 3-1, with Atlanta’s lone victory against the Heat coming on January 21st. That night the Hawks shot 55.9 percent from the field, 42.4 percent from downtown, and 20-24 (83.3 percent) from the free throw line. Hawks star guard Trae Young also finished with 28 points in that game. When evaluating the difficulty of this series, it could come down to Young’s shooting. During the teams’ last matchup, Young shot 9 of 11 from the field in the first half but only 3 of 12 shooting in the second half. John Collins‘ return could make the series interesting with the additional size he provides in the frontcourt.

Miami is currently on a one-week break until Game 1 of the NBA Playoffs. For now, Miami is watching the Play-In tournament along with the rest of the world. One of these three teams will end up being eliminated on Wednesday after the Hawks and Hornets game. Another will be eliminated on Friday when the winner of the Hawks-Hornets game faces the Cavaliers. And Miami will know their first-round opponent with only one day to prepare for them.

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