Miami Heat Wallpaper

Miami Losing Its Grasp on the Eastern Confernece

Miami Heat WallpaperThe team that was perched atop the Eastern Conference for the past four years is now clawing for the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.

A return trip to the NBA Finals appeared to be an uphill battle, especially since the Heat would have to go through the rebuild Cavaliers, anchored by LeBron James, the player that defected from Miami over the summer.

The team was able to convince Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade to remain with the organization, providing a foundation. 

For a team that has averaged 56 regular season wins over the past four years — a particularly impressive feat considering that includes the lockout shortened season of 2011-12 — its 35-45 campaign can hardly be considered a success.

Especially with Miami on the verge of becoming the first team since the 2004-05 Lakers to miss the post season after appearing in the Finals.

Los Angeles was devastated by the loss of Shaquille O’Neal, as he was dealt to the Heat following a falling out with Kobe Bryant.

The lure of bringing a title to his hometown was enough to convince James to depart from Miami, a team he helped lead to two NBA championships, to join the Cavaliers.

Except, the definition of success is a fickle one.

Dwyane Wade is averaging 21.5 points, 4.8 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game this season.
Dwyane Wade is averaging 21.5 points, 4.8 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game this season.

Sitting 10 games below .500 is hardly the ideal situation for any franchise, but claiming 35 victories, even in the weakened Eastern Conference is impressive for a team that lost Bosh following the discovery of blood clots in his lungs back in late February.

For perhaps just the second time in his 12-year tenure with Miami, Wade will be unable to carry his team into the post season.

The struggles the team has faced, as it has dropped six of its past seven outings, as enabled Brooklyn and Indiana to elevate in the standings.

The only way for the Heat to qualify for the playoffs is to win each of its two remaining games while the Nets and Pacers both drop their final two contests of the season.

All three teams would then possess a record of 37-45 and Miami would advance after posting a combined record of 5-3 against Brooklyn and Indiana, the best of the three teams.

The loss of James, both as a scoring force and a facilitator has been a devastating blow for the offense, as Miami is averaging 94.5 points per game, only Charlotte, Philadelphia and New York are scoring a lower amount each night.

The figure is a drop of nearly eight points a game from a season ago.

While the offense has struggled, the Heat has been stout defensively, surrendering just 97.3 points per game, while finally discovering a formidable center.

As the team won the Eastern Conference Finals four straight times, it trotted out Joel Anthony, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Dexter Pittman, Udonis HaslemGreg Oden, Justin Hamilton, Chris Andersen, Josh Harrellson, Eddy Curry, Ronny Turiaf and Erick Dampier to start at center.

The arduous search for a center seems to have finally come to a conclusion with the emergence of Hassan Whiteside.

After bouncing around from two NBA teams, two Developmental League teams and a few stints overseas, Celtics legend Bob Cousy has dubbed Whiteside the first player to remind him of legendary teammate Bill Russell, the first time the Hall-of-Fame point guard has levied such praise in over 40 years.

The invoking of Russell’s name isn’t completely unwarranted, as Whiteside has emerged as one of the most ferocious rim protectors in the league, swatting away 118 shots in just over 1,100 minutes played.

Whiteside has rejected five or more shots in nine of his 47 appearances this season and turned back 12 shots in just under 25 minutes of play against Chicago earlier in the year.

Center isn’t the only position Miami has been able to solidify this season, as it finally addressed a glaring weakness at point guard by fleecing the Suns at the trade deadline.

Goran Dragic has averaged 16.8 points, 5.2 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 1.1 steals since being acquired by the Heat.
Goran Dragic has averaged 16.8 points, 5.2 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 1.1 steals since being acquired by the Heat.

The Heat managed to land Goran Dragic, a point guard selected to the All-NBA Third Team a year ago, as part of a three team trade, sending Justin Hamilton, Norris Cole and Shawne Williams to New Orleans, while dealing Danny Granger and first round picks in 2017 and 2021 to Phoenix.

Miami has to convince Dragic, an unrestricted free agent this summer, to remain with the organization.

The 6-foot-3 guard has already expressed an interest in staying.

Dragic has appeared in just one playoff series during his seven year NBA career, but still has a chance to help Miami qualify.

The team has to defeat Orlando tonight in its home finale and then win in Philadelphia to keep its playoff hopes alive.

Miami basically needs a miracle to advance to the post season for the 19th time in franchise history.

If it doesn’t happen, it’ll be a letdown, but the season hasn’t been a waste.

About Brendan Galella

Brendan Galella founded Shatter the Glass to make the NBA even more accessible to basketball fans. Composing player rankings, team evaluations and intriguing observations, he hopes to turn every reader into a dedicated and educated basketball follower.

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