By David Peto ’23
The Miami Heat have had one of the most interesting trips to the NBA Finals in recent basketball history; it was full of numerous breakout seasons for players, near superstardom for Jimmy Butler, impressive coaching, and awe-inspiring postseason play.
In the offseason the Heat traded for Jimmy Butler in a deal that involved three other teams, they drafted Tyler Herro with the 14th overall pick, and signed Kendrick Nunn and Duncan Robinson—both of whom spent the previous season mainly in the G-league. Going into the preseason the Miami Heat were ranked 15th out of 30 teams, projected to barely make the playoffs in the underwhelming Eastern conference.
An instrumental part of the Heat’s success was the breakout season of Bam Adebayo. Adebayo averaged 16 PPG, 10 RPG, and 5 APG on very efficient shooting. With that being said, he was even better on the defensive end, averaging 1.3 BPG and becoming a defensive player of the year candidate.
Kendrick Nunn fit perfectly with Miami, and even after going undrafted in 2018, he finished 2nd in Rookie of the Year voting.
Sharpshooters Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro also began their NBA careers excellently, both averaging 13.5 PPG, and respectively shooting 45% and 37% from downtown.
And finally, the last piece of the puzzle, in Jimmy Butler, fit right into place. He stepped in, embracing his role as a veteran player and led the young Heat team, netting himself an All NBA 3rd Team and an All Star selection. This season the Heat finished with a record of 44-29, finishing in 5th place, just one game behind the Pacers and one game ahead of the 76ers.
Post Season/ Playoffs
The Heat began the playoffs by facing off against the injury ridden, 4th seed Indian Pacers. Miami was favored to win this series easily, and with both Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic averaging over 20 PPG, they took this series in 4 games.
The second-round matchup against the 1st seed Milwaukee Bucks was a different story; the Bucks with the best record in the NBA were projected by some to win the Finals, being led by MVP and DPOY Giannis Antetokounmpo. Miami may have lacked the defense needed to guard the versatile offense of the Bucks, but the Heat’s efficiency on offense won them the series, boasting a 60% True Shooting Percentage, 55% Effective Field Goal, and 115 Offensive Rating. This offensive performance won them the series 4-1.
The Conference Finals against the 3rd seed Boston Celtics was best described as a chess match between two outstanding coaches. Each game in this series was tightly contested and featured both Erik Spoelstra’s and Brad Steven’s extensive knowledge of the game, with both teams switching game plans multiple times in a match. This time it was the Heat’s defense able to contain the Celtics perimeter-oriented offense just enough to win this series 4-2.
Now the Miami Heat were in the finals, something many organizations can only dream of, but they were going up against the Los Angeles Lakers, led by superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis. It appeared all hope was lost after the Lakers took the first two games led by monster performances from Anthony Davis, but then Jimmy Butler put up a 40-point triple-double in game 3 to keep the series alive.
Game 4 was a closely fought defensive battle that saw the Heat struggle to put up points resulting in a Laker victory, game 5 was won by the Heat with Butler and Robinson leading the charge. Game 6 was a must win scenario for the Heat, however it looked like the Heat didn’t come to play, allowing the Lakers to run away with a 30+ point lead throughout the game.
The Lakers were able to win the series 4-2, and they tied the Celtics for most championships all-time with 17, LeBron fans are happy as he won his fourth ring, and Miami is excited about the success and promise of their team.
Although ending this season on a sour note, with numerous future All Stars and veteran leadership Miami will be a force to be reckoned with for years to come. On top of that Miami is a top free agent destination, hoping to land players including MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, Paul George, Dwight Howard, and Tristan Thompson. Even if the Miami Heat were unsuccessful in winning the championship, the future looks bright.