Here come the Miami Heat.
Seemingly flying under-the-radar for much of the 2020-21 regular season, the Heat look well-positioned to make another deep postseason run.
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Miami dispatched the Sixers with ease, using a 38-22 first quarter to ultimately cruise to the 106-94 win.
Jimmy Butler was once again influential for the Heat, finishing with 21 points, five rebounds and four assists. Miami has now won eight of its last ten games, with the 31-year-old All-Star averaging 22.2 points per game in the nine games he has appeared in the stretch - Miami lost to Dallas by 14 points in the game he missed.
Overall, the Heat have been able to find health in the back half of the season, with Butler, Tyler Herro and Goran Dragic all finding form after missing a combined 60 games throughout the 2020-21 season.
|Pre All-Star break||107.7 (25th)||109.4 (7th)||-1.7 (22nd)|
|Post All-Star break||113.5 (11th)||111.9 (15th)||1.6 (13th)|
Known for their defence, the Heat have seen steady progress offensively after the All-Star break. In fact, over the last 10 games, the Heat are scoring 120.9 points per 100 possessions, good for third in the league during the stretch.
Against Philadelphia, Butler was a perfect 4-for-4 from beyond the 3-point line, with the four makes a season-high from a player that rarely attempts long-range bombs. Butler was shooting just 21.4 percent on 1.9 attempts per game from three on the season.
Of course, Butler finding the outside touch at the business end of the season wouldn't be totally out of character, after he morphed from a 24 percent shooter in the 2019-20 regular season to a 35 percent shooter during the postseason.
The win kept Miami's hopes of home court in the first round alive, with Miami, New York and Atlanta all tied in the loss column entering the final few days of play.
|W/L Record||Games to play|
|Atlanta Hawks||40-31||vs. Houston|
|Miami Heat||39-31|| |
|New York Knicks||39-31|| |
The upcoming matchup against the Bucks holds added intrigue, with Miami and Milwaukee likely not eager to face each other in the first round. A win for Miami would benefit both teams.
Udonis Haslem makes his presence felt
Miami Heat legend Udonis Haslem rarely sees court time these days. In fact, entering tonight he had only played 190 minutes across the previous three seasons.
With that in mind, it was a shock to see him check into the game late in the first quarter. The rare appearance was short-lived, however, with the veteran forward getting into a heated altercation with Dwight Howard. Haslem was ejected from the game after playing just 2:40.
"At the end of the day, I am who I am. I can't change now," Haslem said.
Head coach Erik Spoelstra was hardly perturbed by the incident, weighing in during the postgame media session.
"That's my favourite moment of the season so far," Spoelstra said.
Well, you can't say Haslem didn't have an impact.
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