Miami Heat Second Half Of 2021 NBA Season
- A cinderella team in the bubble, the Heat looked like the team to beat in the East this season
- COVID protocols and rotating lineups have hindered team chemistry
- The Heat have options for the upcoming trade deadline
The 2021 NBA season has reached its halfway point. The All-star break is days away, and a much-needed rest will allow playoff contenders to make the final moves necessary to complete before the trade deadline. One of the teams primed for a big turnaround is the Miami Heat.
Let’s take a look at the Miami Heat second half expectations and insights!
During the 2020 NBA playoff bubble, the Miami Heat came in as the 5th seed; no one expected the run the Heat would go on. Basketball fans rallied behind the Cinderella story Heat as they crushed the Pacers, Bucks, and Celtics on their way to a finals berth. The run would fall short as the Heat were defeated 4-1 by Lebron James and the Lakers. Injuries played a role in the series loss as Goran Dragic was out due to a foot injury, and Bam Adebayo and Kendrick Nunn being limited. Except for Jae Crowder, the Miami Heat returned their core and bench players for the 2021 season.
The first half of the 2021 NBA season has not gone as expected for the Miami Heat. The Heat were able to return to .500 after a 6 game win streak to end February. The Heat reminded the rest of the league they are still an elite defensive team that will force turnovers leading to fast-break buckets. In February, the Heat recorded a 10-5 record with significant wins over the Lakers and Jazz. A big reason for this resurgence in February was the return of Jimmy Butler to the starting lineup.
Butler has only played in 21 of the Heat’s 35 games. Butler is averaging 20.1 points, 7.8 rebounds, 7.8 assists, and shooting 44.2% from the floor. The 5x All-Star knows what it takes to win, and with his sidekick in Bam, Adebayo is averaging a double-double for the season; this Heat team is trending in the right direction at the right time.
When Butler is inactive for games this season, the Heat are 4-10. COVID restrictions play a larger role in that record than just the absence of Butler. The lineup has constantly been rotating because of the COVID restrictions, thus limiting team chemistry development.
Jimmy Butler’s ability to command the offense and slow the game down while scoring points at the free-throw line is essential to the Heat. Butler has been the Miami Heat nose’s embodiment to the grindstone mentality the franchise has been known for since he arrived from the 76ers. His veteran leadership brings stability to a lineup full of young players. Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, Bam Adebayo, Kendrick Nunn, and rising rookie Precious Achiuwa are all valuable assets to the Heat, but they lack the emotional stability and wherewithal to come back from deficits or overcome a subpar performance. Jimmy Butler is the cool head that can reign in these young players and get the team back on track.
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A Tale of Two Heat Halves
In 2020, The Heat went .500 in the second half after a sub .500 start to the season. The year before, Miami went 14-10 after the All-Star break and 30-28 before. This has been a consistent trend for the Miami Heat since Erik Spoelstra took over as head coach in 2008. In eight of Spoelstra’s first 11 seasons, Miami has had a better second half than the first half. The three outliers were the seasons when the Big 3 spent the final months preparing for a finals run, not just a playoff berth.
Career-long Heat power-forward Udonis Haslam was interviewed about the trend.
“When you get to the second half of the season, you start to see who’s getting ready for vacation and you start to see who’s really, really trying to make the playoffs and you start to see a couple teams unravel.”
The sense of urgency picks up following the All-star break; this season it will be at heightened levels because of the shortened season. The All-star break will allow a few days rest to clear up injuries as well as coach Spoelstra to solidify his 1st and 2nd team lineups. Miami will come out of the All-Star break as a rejuvenated team. Spoelstra has shown time after time that he can make the necessary adjustments to lead the team to the playoffs.
A trade could very likely come about during the time off. A player that has been linked to Miami for a while now is Victor Oladipo. Oladipo has expressed his interest in playing for the Heat; it is just a matter of the Heat pulling the trigger. Tyler Herro has been linked in many trade rumors as a disposable asset for the Heat. While Herro became an internet sensation in the bubble, it seems to have gone to his head a little. He will take ill-advised shots instead of moving the ball around, and his defense isn’t strong enough to have him continuously play both ends.
Trade or not, the Heat are focused on getting back to the finals this year; a six-game win streak revitalized the team spirits and came at the perfect time. The second half of the season should be very interesting for the Heat in a tight Eastern Conference.