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’09 Playoff Preview: East #5 – Miami Heat

Posted by Neil Paine on April 16, 2009

Coach: Erik Spoelstra
Record: 43-39
Last NBA Title: 2006
5-Year Playoff Record: Won 7 Series, Lost 3, 1 Final, 1 Title
Championship Odds: 0.0%
Key Question: How far can Wade single-handedly carry this team?

Category Offense Rk Defense Rk LgAvg
Efficiency 107.8 20 107.6 11 108.3
Pace 89.9 22 -- -- 91.7
eFG% 50.0 16 50.1 16 50.0
TO% 13.7 3 16.7 4 15.2
ORb% 24.6 24 27.1 19 26.7
FTA/FGA 28.2 24 32.5 22 30.6
3P% 35.7 22 38.9 28 36.7
2P% 48.9 12 47.6 9 48.5
FT% 75.4 23 77.1 18 77.1
3PA/FGA 24.5 8 23.7 21 22.4
Ast/FG 55.1 22 56.4 15 56.5
Blk% 6.7 5 9.2 2 7.6
Stl% 7.1 4 8.7 5 7.9

Regular Season: After a miserable 2008 that saw Dwyane Wade miss half the season and the team win a league-worst 15 games, the Heat bounced back nicely in '09 under 1st-year head coach Erik Spoelstra. Wade played the most games of his career and was as dominant as ever, rookie Mario Chalmers was a pleasant surprise, top draftee Michael Beasley improved as the season progressed, and a midseason trade for Jermaine O'Neal and Jamario Moon seems to have at least partially resuscitated the big man's career and given Miami a Shawn Marion replacement in the process.

Prime-Time Players: 1. Dwyane Wade. If it weren't for LeBron James and (perhaps) Chris Paul, Wade would hands-down be the best basketball player on Earth right now. He dispelled any notion that his aggressive style burned him out by having a monster Olympics and following that up with a great NBA campaign in 2009. And remember the shows he usually puts on during the playoffs? He's capable of single-handedly winning at least 1 series for Miami.
2. Mario Chalmers. "Superintendent" Chalmers has been surprisingly good for a rookie, even after considering his turnover issues. He can knock down shots and does a good job of picking his spots on offense, plus we know he can make game-changing plays if called upon.
3. Udonis Haslem. One of the few remaining veterans of Miami's '06 title run, Haslem doesn't put up gaudy numbers but he's a hard-working role player that every team needs at least 1 of to make a difference in the playoffs.

But don't count on... Jermaine O'Neal. JO has made Miami a stronger team inside, especially on defense, but he has a long history of invisibility in the "second season". Even with the change of scenery, I don't think Miami fans should expect any different from O'Neal this time around.

Why they can win: Wade is amazing, and has repeatedly shown the ability to lift mediocre teammates to heights they'd have no business going otherwise. Plus, the Heat are a pretty solid defensive team.

Why they can't win: They're a one-man show on offense, and while that one man is awesome, he can't go it alone. There's also the question of experience: while Wade, Haslem, & O'Neal are old hands, they'll be using a whole lot of fresh faces as well.

X-Factor: Avoiding the beasts of the East. By securing the 5 seed, Miami drew Atlanta in round 1 rather than one of the elite 1-3 seeds. And as luck would have it, Atlanta's just about the only upper-half Eastern Conference team they have any shot at upsetting.

Heat vs. Off. Def. Reb. Coach Exp. The Skinny Prediction
Atlanta Push Push Atlanta isn't upset-proof Hawks in 5
Boston Can Wade carry them past injured C's? Celtics in 6
Chicago X X Thank goodness for home-court advantage, huh? Heat in 7
Cleveland Not much Miami can do against deeper, better Cavs squad Cavs in 5
Detroit X X X Remember when this series was a marquee matchup? Heat in 6
Orlando Heat barely offered resistance in season series Magic in 5
Philadelphia Push Push Push X Miami wins… but by the slimmest of margins Heat in 7

(Key: "X" = Advantage; blank = disadvantage)

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