Let’s start by stating the obvious: The Heat are a fantastic basketball team, and your two-time defending NBA champions. They have the best player in the world, and two of the best players at their respective positions, and a deep bench full of experienced role players. Until they are beaten in the playoffs, no team is “better” than the Heat.
That being said: Why are the Heat “only” 48-22, with an in-conference record of 28-14?
The Heat will almost certainly crest 50 wins, which is the common benchmark for a great season. But three teams in the Western Conference (the Spurs, Thunder and Clippers) have already reached 50 wins, with the Rockets a game away from doing the same — and that’s in the ultra-competitive Western Conference, where .500 or better teams run 10 deep. If the Heat played in the West, they’d only be a two wins ahead of the Trail Blazers for the fifth seed at this point.
In fact, if the Heat played in the West, they might not have 48 wins today. The Eastern Conference this year is generally considered “absolute garbage” or “the intersection of diarrhea and athletics,” with two playoff teams under .500, the three worst teams in the league (including the Philadelphia “We’ve lost 26 games in a row” 76ers), and supposed contenders like “the Derrick-Rose-less Bulls” and “the Bobcats.”
Here’s who the Heat have lost to in the Eastern Conference this year:
1) vs Philadelphia (Oct. 30).
2) at Brooklyn (Nov. 1) — lost by 1 point.
3) vs Boston (Nov. 9) — lost by 1 point.
4) vs Detroit (Dec. 3).
5) at Chicago (Dec. 5).
6) at Indiana (Dec. 10).
7) at New York (Jan. 9).
8) at Brooklyn (Jan. 10).
9) at Washington (Jan. 15).
10) at Atlanta (Jan. 20).
11) at Chicago (March 9).
12) vs Brooklyn (March 12) — lost by 1 point.
13) at Boston (March 19).
14) at Indiana (March 26) — lost by 1 point.
A few takeaways: Of the 14 losses, 10 came on the road. Thee of the losses (including two of the four home losses) came very early in the season, and four were by a single point. None of them came against a team worse than Boston (so, none of the true bottom feeders in the league).
So perhaps the Heat’s in-conference record is misleading, and a sign that they are saving their energy for the playoffs, as many experts expected them to. Ten losses on the road is disconcerting, however, especially when you consider this: The Heat and Pacers have played 13 times dating back to last season, and the home team has won every single game. That’s a 7-6 advantage to the Pacers. And if the playoffs started today, Indiana would have home-court against Miami in a potential Eastern Conference Finals matchup.
Prior results don’t predict future outcomes. But considering the Heat’s struggles on the road against a weak Eastern Conference, this has to put some fear into the few actual Miami Heat fans that exist for the first time since the Spurs were a Tim Duncan lay-up away from ending Miami’s dynasty early.
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