For the first time since 2014, the Miami Heat are headed to the Eastern Conference Finals.
With a 103-94 Game 5 win over the Milwaukee Bucks, the Heat have earned a 4-1 series win over the team that posted the league's best record for a second straight year.
Six Heat players scored in double figures in the win, led by 17 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists from Jimmy Butler. Goran Dragic added 17 points, Jae Crowder 16 and Bam Adebayo 13, while Tyler Herro continued his scoring run off the bench with 14 points, eight rebounds, and six assists.
As the Heat move on, we break down their outlook for the remaining of the postseason and beyond, including their chances to win a title this year and their standing as an Eastern Conference power for years to come.
Are the Heat the East's newest power?
Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21): I have a hard time believing otherwise.
I don't think anyone thought that it would come together this quickly for Miami, as the team boasts a unique blend of youth and vets. It's that exact same blend of talent that leads me to believe the Heat are just getting started.
While Butler will be 31 in a matter of days, Dragic is 34 and Andre Iguodala is 36, the future of the franchise is represented by Duncan Robinson (26), Kendrick Nunn (25), Bam Adebayo (23) and Tyler Herro (20).
Adebayo, Herro and Robinson each perform well beyond their years, making for a seamless transition as time goes on. Truthfully, Bam and Jimmy are equally important, meaning Adebayo will have no problem being THE guy as soon as age begins to catch up to Jimmy.
Benyam Kidane (@BenyamKidane): The Heat are here to stay
The front office has done a superb job in not only finding guys that fit the Heat culture, but developing players that fit the mould of the modern NBA. Duncan Robinson, Tyler Herro, and Kendrick Nunn can all shoot the ball at a high level and complement the star duo of Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo perfectly.
Based on the way they have performed this season, South Beach could well become the hottest free agent destination of the off-season.
I think the Heat are just getting started.
Yash Matange (@yashmatange2694): If the performance in these playoffs is anything to go by, I don't see why they shouldn't be included among the East's elite going forward.
The partnership between Jimmy Butler and the franchise seems to function like a match made in heaven and it's here to stay as the All-Star is not a free-agent until 2023. The organisation has assembled a good mix of quality veterans and talented, emerging young guys around him which means this team is going to be contending for the next few years.
Are the Boston Celtics or Toronto Raptors a better matchup?
McGregor: First off, I really don't think the Heat care who is put in front of them. That's just the swagger this team exudes.
When I take a closer look, though, I think the Heat have a better shot against the Raptors. Miami is a sum of all the parts and it boasts a roster full of guys that are capable of performances that can sway the outcome of a game or a series and Toronto is similar.
At this point, I think a hard-nosed Heat team can outplay the Raptors at their own game. I'm a little more confident in Miami's supporting cast at this point of the postseason. Should Toronto advance, however, that could change.
As good as the Heat have looked so far this postseason, I'm not sure if they can counter the star power of the top-heavy Celtics, who have a veteran All-Star in Kemba Walker and transcending stars in Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.
Kidane: The Celtics took the season series against the Heat 2-1 this season, but I think the playoffs are a different story based on one key position - centre.
Bam Adebayo presents a matchup nightmare inside for the Celtics, with Daniel Theis, Enes Kanter, and Robert Williams the only legit big men in the rotation. In the Heat's lone win over the Celtics in the regular season, Adebayo had 21 points and 12 rebounds and as he continues to flourish during the postseason, his importance to the Heat's success is becoming clearer and clearer.
The outside shooting and guard play of both teams match up well, but Adebayo will have a much easier time dealing with the Celtics frontcourt than the Raptors' strong inside presence of Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol.
Matange: Even without the news of Gordon Hayward returning to the bubble, the Raptors are quite significantly a better or rather easier matchup for the Heat.
Miami certainly has the personnel to hang with the Celtics' key players whether that's the wings in Brown, Tatum or Hayward or the guards in Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart. That said, they are definitely, in my opinion, a much more difficult matchup than the defending champions
I also agree with Gilbert that the much-talked-about Heat culture isn't necessarily bothered about whom they're facing. They will be ready to battle either way.
Is Miami a legitimate title contender?
McGregor: At some point, you've gotta stop doubting this team right? I think the Heat are good enough to advance to the Finals, but I can't see them defeating either of the teams from LA, should they represent the West in the Finals.
Again, I've been proven wrong by this team a few times already but I think they're ahead of schedule right now and will enter "legitimate contender" territory very very soon.
Kidane: They're close....but I think they are still a season away from truly being considered among the NBA's elite teams.
The energy and intensity at which they play could be enough to get them out of the Eastern Conference, but the talent gap between them and either of the LA teams - who they would likely face in the Finals - could prove too much.
Matange: Given their current form, a Finals appearance isn't far-fetched.
However, I'm not sure I can see them defeating any of the Lakers or Clippers (if one of them do finish as the Western Conference Champions). I believe they do have a chance against the LeBron James-led squad but not so much against the reigning Finals MVP in Kawhi Leonard and his Clippers.
So, contender yes but favourite? I don't believe so.
Where does Jimmy Butler rank among the top players in the league?
McGregor: I don't want to be too big of a prisoner of the moment, so I will say that Butler is comfortably in the top 15 based on his postseason performance.
There are so many things that he does within the flow of the game - "game-winning plays" as many would say. He's already hung 40 and 30 on the league's top defence and been the driving force in the Heat defying plenty of odds this season.
He was, for sure the best player in this series and outplaying the league's MVP is nothing to scoff at but I think Butler has also benefitted from being in a spot that is perfect for him. In many ways, it's mutually beneficial.
Besides, there's nothing wrong with being top 15.
Kidane: You don't make your name in the regular season, you make it in the playoffs...and right now Jimmy Butler is playing like a top 10 player in the NBA.
Butler is a unique superstar that doesn't only impact the game with his offence. He sets the tone defensively, creates for his teammates and when called upon is a proven big shot-maker late in games.
As Gil said, he's probably closer to top 15, but through two playoff series' he's led the Heat to an 8-1 record and taken out the MVP of the league.
Matange: There's always a spotlight on a superstar when he has a deep and talented team around him. For the first time in a long time, Butler has a team around him that allows him to compete and contend.
Once he evolved into an All-Star and then a superstar in his final years in Chicago, Butler's always been among the league's elite 'two-way players', a very short list of superstars headlined by Leonard.
The current team success just puts his name back in the conversation to be among the league's top 15 players, as Gilbert mentioned) but the reality is, he was always there.
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.