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Very Quietly, The Miami Heat Have Saved Their Season And Look Like A Problem Again

Jeff Haynes. Getty Images.

As we know, the first half of the NBA season was all over the place. Teams that made deep runs started slow, other teams had covid issues, other teams had injuries, it was a mess. The crazy thing is all three were true when it came to the Miami Heat. It was hard to gauge how much was regression after their Bubble run and how much of their early season underachievement was due to all their best players missing time. 

Looking at how things stand today on March 15th, I think we have our answer.

Unless you're a Heat fan, did you know they've won of 10 their last 11? Even more impressive when you look and see they beat the Lakers and Jazz over that run. The rest is mostly bad teams but so what? Good teams don't play with their food and few teams in the East have been better at that. The Heat are 16-5 against teams .500 or under, which beats PHI (14-6), BKN (10-10) and only trail MIL (17-4). The easiest way to turn around your season is to beat the teams you should beat.

While they still have to show they can beat good teams (5-13), there is reason for optimism in South Beach. Since this run started, the Heat are

1st in wins

17th in offense

1st in defense

5th in net rating

Basically, they turned their season around without being all that good on the offensive end. Considering this was a top 10 offense last season, my guess is that number comes around. So what changed? The simple answer is Jimmy Butler is playing out of his goddamn mind. Snubbed of an All Star spot probably because of his games played, we're getting Bubble Butler during this run. He's still not shooting threes, but who gives a shit

 

 

He came back for good around 1/30, and I think it's safe to say he's been playing at an All NBA level since. Over this current stretch of 11 games he's living at 25/6.8/9.0/2.6 on 51% shooting. He's been incredible. Add in some 16.6/10.4/5.7 on 52% shooting from Bam, both Dragic and Kendrick Nunn looking effective at the guard spot and then their shooters making around 5 3PM a night over this run and you're seeing a Heat team that many expected to see after this past summer. 

But I can't keep going back to the impact of Jimmy Butler. You want to know why the Heat turned around their season? Just look at these on/off splits

 

 

That my friends is what I call making an impact. They are completely different teams when Butler is on the floor compared to when he's off. 

This then brings me to the 

upcoming deadline. We know Pat Riley isn't shy about making a trade to improve his roster in season. He literally just did it last year. It's also why you hear the Miami Heat are interested in every single big name that hits the rumor mill. They LOVE leaking that they are in on every big name. The point is, at 11-17 their season looked like something you maybe let play out and not invest in. Chalk it up to a weird year. Now? I'd say they have just a good a shot as any. Now you almost have to add if you want to get into that top tier. 

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The reason I think you can buy this run by the Heat is because the foundation of their success has come on the defensive end. Even with Butler missing time, they rank 5th in the league. Not just during this run, but on the season. You look at some of the best teams in the league right now (LAL/PHI/UTA) and you see the top 3 defensive teams in the NBA. The Suns aren't far behind at 6. You have to defend to have success in this league, especially in the playoffs. 

If you were to look ahead at their schedule, it doesn't seem so bad for the foreseeable future until you get into that first week of April

There's an argument to be made that they can continue this run and put a real challenge on someone like MIL for the 3 seed. The Sixers don't look to be dropping any time soon, but we'll see how they look without Embiid for an extended period of time. The Nets look unstoppable at the moment even without Durant and that probably continues, but the point is you may want to rethink things when it comes to the Heat if you were someone who gave up on them when they sat at 11-17. Would it shock anyone now if they went on a run similar to what the Jazz did? With Jimmy Butler back and healthy, I wouldn't rule out something crazy.