As many of us know, Miami Heat won the Eastern Conference crown in the 2019/20 season. This forced the Los Angeles Lakers to produce their best form to win the NBA Finals in their duel, with Heat losing out by a 4-2 margin in Orlando.
The prowess of LeBron James and Anthony Davis was too much for the Heat to handle in the Finals. But the experience gained by Bam Adebayo, Kendrick Nunn, and Tyler Herro along with the stellar play of Jimmy Butler proved that the franchise was ready to compete at the top once more. After years of underachievement following the departure of LeBron in 2014, the Heat were back.
Erik Spoelstra’s men were predicted to have another surge in the Eastern Conference to defend their title. But their early-season form has not matched up to expectations due to key absences and a lack of form on the court. The Heat have not been able to find their rhythm that was so effective down the stretch, easing past the Indiana Pacers, Milwaukee Bucks, and Boston Celtics.
Expectations of another strong season have taken a blow after the opening two months of the campaign. After 24 matches, the Heat posted a 10-14 record, leaving them well off the pace of the Philadelphia 76ers leading the way at the top of the standings. Their cause was not aided by losing Butler and Adebayo for a key two-game stretch against the Sixers in January. Unsurprisingly, Joel Embiid and his team capitalized, gaining back-to-back victories.
Butler and Adebayo have since returned to the line-up, but life has not been easy on the court since. Due to their lack form, the Heat will have good value in the basketball betting odds to win the Eastern Conference this term. It’s not out of the question that they can rise up the standings, but even as a playoff team, they will be dangerous. They finished as the fifth seed last season but blew away their competition in their run to the NBA Finals. The leading sports betting sites on Asiabet covering the NBA will be aware of their threat, and may not be fooled by their pedestrian start. The various sites providing different odds and offers demonstrate an awareness of the Heat’s potential to be a sleeper in the Eastern Conference.
Spoelstra is bullish about the performances of his team, despite their record. Their displays against the leading teams in the East have been up-and-down, suffering heavy defeats at the hands of the Sixers, Nets, and Bucks. However, it seems that Miami has been able to flick the switch on the past. None more so than Butler, who has endured a stop-start campaign, and whose absences this term have confirmed the 31-year-old’s importance to the franchise.
Butler’s experience and points-scoring are vital to the success of the Heat, easing the pressure on Adebayo, Herro, and Duncan Robinson. Once Miami has their starters fit and firing on the court for an extended period, then we will be able to judge fairly whether they can muster a surge to challenge for the crown.
The issue for the Heat is the talent that has emerged in the Eastern Conference. The Sixers have found their form under new head coach Doc Rivers to establish themselves as contenders for the crown. Philadelphia has always had the talent at their disposal, but the franchise were underachievers in the final two seasons of Brett Brown’s tenure.
Now with Rivers, and Embiid playing at an MVP standard, the Sixers have their best opportunity to reach the NBA Finals in a long time. Miami and Philadelphia, along with the ever-present Bucks at the top of the Eastern Conference, have a new rival in the form of the Nets.
Brooklyn has formed their own super team in the mold of the Heat from back in the day when they placed LeBron, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade together. Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden have formed a dangerous partnership that has threatened to take the Nets from basement-dwellers all the way to the NBA Finals. However, it takes more than star power to win a championship, and a team-ethos is equally as important to success.
The Heat have talent of their own and should not be taken for granted given their performances last season. Adebayo and Butler have proven to be successful under pressure against their rivals. Spoelstra has a good balance to his team, which also has displayed composure when it has mattered the most.
LeBron and the Lakers had too much quality on the court for Miami to handle in the NBA Finals, and that will be the worry for Spoelstra in the future. The other contenders in the Eastern Conference have the depth of talent to throw onto the court. That may make the difference in the post-season, especially if Butler continues to struggle for fitness. Don’t count Miami out just yet, though.