Despite entering the competition as a No. 8 seed with a serious shooting deficiency — and, later, losing Tyler Herro to a broken hand — the team walloped the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in Round 1. And then it proceeded to steal home-court advantage from the No. 5 New York Knicks in Round 2 with a Game 1 win.
However, the Heat still have some things to overcome if they hope to live up to the dark horse contender label that a handful of pundits placed on them heading into the championship scramble.
B/R: Injuries May Hold the Heat Back in Their Latest Title Bid
On Friday, Hughes dropped his list of the one thing that could end up holding each of the remaining playoff teams back. For the Heat, he ultimately went with the aforementioned injuries due to the shortfall they have left on the offensive side of the court.
“No team is the same when its stars go down, but the Heat were particularly vulnerable to the loss of key offensive players,” Hughes wrote. “Miami finished the regular season as the No. 25 offense, by far the worst ranking of any playoff team.”
In particular, the prospect that the Heat could be without Herro and Butler — although the latter may be returning in Game 3 — should be a scary one for the South Beach faithful.
“Lineups that didn’t include Herro and Butler were almost laughably inept during the [regular season], posting an offensive rating of 103.3, more than six points per 100 possessions worse than the figure the Charlotte Hornets’ 30th-ranked attack put up,” reminded Hughes.
“Improved shooting and Butler’s takeover efforts transformed the Heat into an upset-hunting playoff juggernaut. If that ankle heals up, Miami will resume its run. If it doesn’t, the Heat won’t score enough to continue contending.”
On the other hand, Game 2 did offer reason to hope that Miami can remain competitive in this particular series even without the high-scoring duo.
Miami’s Offense Remained Relatively Efficient in Game 2 With Both Butler & Herro on the Bench
If Butler hadn’t gone full-on supernova against the Bucks, the Heat would probably be in offseason mode right now. Over five games against Giannis Antetokounmpo and Co., the six-time All-Star averaged 37.6 points per contest and shot 59.7% from the field.
That said, Miami actually weathered the storm relatively well sans him and Herro during Game 2.
Although its pace slowed to a crawl, the Heat’s offensive rating of 118.0 in the contest is nearly identical to their second-ranked output throughout the postseason. And while they didn’t shoot a particularly high percentage from three-point range during the game (34.7%), their 17 triples equaled their high from the previous round.
Spoelstra’s squad was also able to limit turnovers in its new formation, committing just six giveaways.