The NBA play-in tournament is off to a thrilling start, opening up this season’s playoffs. We’ve seen so much already. From a near buzzer-beater win from the Los Angeles Lakers over the Golden State Warriors, who would go on to lose the eight-seed spot to the Memphis Grizzlies last night in overtime, to a blowout in Indiana with the Pacers eliminating the Charlotte Hornets from contention. The final 16 teams are now set, so the real fun officially begins. There are bound to be many upsets during these playoffs and we’ll soon find out which underdog teams will rise above the rest.

Eastern Conference dark horse

The six-seed Miami Heat have a record of 40-32, giving them a four-game differential between the seven-seed Boston Celtics (36-36) in the East. This helped them comfortably clinch a playoff spot which makes them real contenders to upset their opponents.

A trip down memory lane

Let’s look back at the 2020 NBA playoffs in the bubble…

The Heat were the Eastern Conference champions last year with a 4-2 series win over the Boston Celtics. The five-seed Heat turned heads when they upset the three-seed Celtics. Lead by players Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and rookie phenom Tyler Herro, they proved they were not to be overlooked. They were set to take on the number one seed Lakers in an epic fight for the championship. They would eventually lose to the Lakers in a six-game series (4-2) but gave the purple and gold a tough battle.

Shutting down the Greek Freak

Miami faces the three-seed Milwaukee Bucks in round one today at 2 p.m. Both teams enter playing their best basketball of late: the Heat winning 12 of its last 16 while Milwaukee winning 11 of its last 14, per SB Nation. Defensively, Miami is stacked with key players Adebayo, Butler, Andre Iguodala, and Trevor Azria on the floor. “The experience of all of these defenders in big games (they all have played in at least one NBA Finals), as well as their versatility, gives Miami one of the best chances of any team in the NBA in slowing down [Giannis] Antetokounmpo,” per Heat Nation. 

So it’s bound to be a battle but one I think the Heat will come out on top of. The big question remains, can Miami turn up the heat and replicate their high energy from last season? Or will they fall short and fizzle out? My prediction; they take it all the way to the finals, again– this time with a different outcome.

 

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