In a year where there has been so much unpredictability in the world and in the sports universe, the Miami Heat have managed to clinch a ticket to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in six years. They did this after beating the number 1 seed Milwaukee Bucks in the second round in five games.
This turn of events is not something that many people could have foreseen happening before the start of the season. The Heat have been a revelation this season after missing the playoffs last year. The Heat knew going into the 2019-20 season that they would have to retool the roster in order to get back into the playoffs, especially after the retirement of franchise legend Dwayne Wade.
Over the summer the Heat made one huge transaction that would have a big impact on their roster. The Heat decided to trade their disgruntled starting center Hassan Whiteside, who has struggled a bit since he signed a max contract a few years back. In return, the Heat got Meyers Leonard, who is a solid stretch big who can shoot from the outside. That trade also included the Heat acquiring Jimmy Butler from the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for Josh Richardson.
Butler is the kind of player that is built for the Heat. He possesses an old school mentality, on defense he’s one of the best in the league, and his will to win is off the charts. Butler has had his critics over the years but general manager Pat Riley and head coach Erik Spoelstra knew that he was the kind of guy they needed.
Going into the season many people thought that the Heat would make it back to the playoffs, but no one saw them as a serious threat in the Eastern Conference. This season the Heat have been a huge surprise to some but have also managed to be one of the most consistent teams in the NBA. They have done it by playing team-oriented basketball predicated on ball movement, efficiency on the offensive end, and great team defense.
They managed to finish the regular season with the 5th seed in the Eastern Conference and a record of 44-29 despite their leading scorer, Butler, only averaging 19.9 points per game. One aspect of the Heat’s success that has been swept under the rug in the midst of the Heat’s success is the marvelous job that Spoelstra has done as the head coach of this team this season.
His road to get to where he is now was far from easy; simultaneously, Spoelstra has been someone who worked for years to get to where he is today. Before becoming the head coach of the Heat in 2008, Spoelstra spent ten years as an assistant coach with the Heat before taking over for one of the greatest coaches in the history of the game in Pat Riley.
Since taking over in his 12 seasons at the helm, Spoelstra has a regular-season record of 567-392 along with 2 NBA titles as well. Despite all his success, the reason that this year might be his finest yet is because of the circumstances that surrounded the Heat this season.
Those include the fact that the Heat missed the playoffs last season in the relatively weak Eastern Conference and going into the playoffs this year was a team that few had as one that would even have a shot of getting past the second round let alone the Eastern Conference Finals and the NBA Finals.
During the 2019-20 playoffs, the Heat have been dominant; in the first round of the playoffs they comfortably swept the Indiana Pacers in four games, and then they had the big task of going up against the number 1 seed Milwaukee Bucks who had the best record in the NBA and the reigning MVP in Giannis Antetokounmpo. But the Heat, who came into the series as underdogs did not back down from the challenge as they managed to beat the Bucks in five very tough games that all went down to the wire.
The Heat are currently matched up against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals in a very evenly matched series between two teams that most people were not expecting to get this far. If the Heat don’t win a fourth title or even get past the Celtics, they still have a lot to be proud of, and a lot to look forward to in the years to come.
The Heat are now only one game away from the NBA Finals, and if they advance they will be matched up against either the Denver Nuggets or the Los Angeles Lakers who have both been two very tough teams to beat this season. If they were to win a championship against either of those teams, it would be a truly incredible accomplishment for the whole organization.
It would be fitting in a year as uncertain as 2020 to have a huge surprise winner of the NBA Finals in the Miami Heat. If the Heat are victorious, Spoelstra will definitely enter the conversation as one of the greatest coaches of all time after winning his third NBA title.