Should the Heat Cool Down?
After the losses of Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, the Miami Heat began to settle into what started as a disappointing season. After losing 10 of their last 11 games, the team sat of the bottom of the standings with an 11-30 record.
Things began to look better as the team began a four game homestand with an impressive 109-103 victory over MVP candidate James Harden and the Houston Rockets. The team continued winning with victories over the Dallas Mavericks and Milwaukee Bucks. The Heat were now looking at a three game winning streak, their longest of the season with Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors next on the schedule.
Dion Waiters led the team to a victory over Golden State with 33 points including the game winning 3-pointer with 0.6 seconds. Adding yet another impressive victory. The following night, Waiters did it again hitting another game-winner against the Brooklyn Nets to erase an 18-point deficit. The wins continued to pour in and suddenly they were on a 10 game win streak. Three more victories pushed the team’s winning streak to 13 games. The Heat now possessed a 24-30 record. Things were looking bright in Miami.
The Philadelphia 76ers concluded the Heat’s streak with a 117-109 victory on Feb 11. The streak is the longest in the league and helped the team gain ground in the Eastern Conference playoff chase, as they are currently two games out of the eight seed. It also became the longest streak for a team below .500 in NBA history.
Point guard Goran Dragic progressed into a solid floor leader and is averaging a team leading 20.3 points and 6.2 assist per game. Journeyman James Johnson is averaging career highs in points (12.2), rebounds (4.9) and assists (3.3). Wayne Ellington is also averaging a career high in points (10.9). Waiters is playing like the player he was projected to play like when the Cavaliers drafted him fourth overall.
Despite now being in the hunt, one question lingers in the minds of Heat fans.
Did the winning streak help or hurt the team? If the Heat were to play LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round, the probability of dethroning the defending champions is not impossible but very unlikely. With a slow start to the season, tanking seemed like the right path to follow. This year’s draft is projected with talented players including Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball and Josh Jackson. The more the team lost, the higher the chances of securing a higher lottery pick. The streak changed the entire perspective of the season.
While winning is always nice, the team should be looking towards the future. They possess a franchise building block with Hassan Whiteside, who is averaging 16.8 points and 14.1 rebounds per game. Despite season-ending shoulder surgery, Justise Winslow, 20, showed progress in his second season. Guards Josh Richardson, 23, and Tyler Johnson, 24, provide the Heat with scoring off the bench. These four players give the Heat a young nucleolus they could build around for seasons to come.
Sources: NBA, ESPN, Basketball Reference, Bleacher Report