|Written by Don Anthony|
|Friday, 20 April 2012 11:41|
Following their recent 86-96 defeat to Eastern Conference leaders Chicago Bulls, the Miami Heat seems certain to be the number-two seed in the Eastern Conference come play-off time.
The Heat has since won three straight games, defeating the Charlotte Bobcats 105-82, New York Knicks 93-85 and New Jersey Nets 101-98 and has six regular season games remaining. Only two of these games are against teams that have made it to the playoffs: the Boston Celtics and top seed Chicago Bulls.
Miami will also certainly face the seventh seed New York Knicks in the first round. The Heat should have enough weapons to get by the Knicks, but it will be close. The Knicks have one of the league's best scorers in Carmelo Anthony. His 42 points in their last encounter with Miami should serve as a warning. And with the return of Amare Stoudemire from injury and the success of Tyson Chandler at center, the Knicks look set to dominate the paint. But Miami will have home court advantage and a solid defense set-up, this should prove enough to lead them through the semi-finals.
At the semi-final stage, the Heat could face elimination if they fail to be at their best. The Heat should face a dangerous Indiana Pacers team. Indiana should easily defeat their expected first round opponent Orlando Magic, due to fitness problems of their superstar center Dwight Howard.
The Heat should encounter match up problems throughout this series, especially in the front court where the Heat has shown weaknesses. The Pacers have a decent center in Roy Hibbert and in the forward position Danny Granger has been outstanding since the second half of the season. With David West as forward, these three make up a formidable front court. Their back court of Paul George at guard and Darren Collison as point guard also enjoyed a good season. The Heat will find it difficult to get into the paint should Indiana employ the zone defense. Pacers will have the rebounding advantage at both ends of the court and the Heat must find ways of keeping them out of the paint and off the board.
If successful, the Heat should meet the Chicago Bulls or the Boston Celtics, as both are expected to advance to the semi-finals. The Heat should expect another difficult series as both teams are very strong defensively and both will be playing the zone and will attempt to keep the Heat out of the paint.
Regardless, the road back to the NBA final will not be easy. The regular season means nothing. Let's go Heat!