Don't look now but the Miami Heat are on fire. They're on a 7 game winning streak and have won 12 of their last 15 games. They sit one game behind the Cleveland Cavaliers in the east, and a win tonight against the Bulls paired with a likely Cavaliers loss to the Warriors would give them sole possession of third in the East.
The Heat have been great, but when we look at where they got their recent wins we see opponents like Orlando (twice), Detroit, New York and Utah. Not the toughest of games but for how Miami started the season it's pretty promising. What is most impressive is that they've been able to shut down teams like Milwaukee and squeak out recent wins against Boston and Toronto. The eye test tells me that they're still far from being a real threat, but this could be because of their misleading roster composition. Scanning their team, it's hard to find a single star. Whiteside has had moments in the past but hasn't been the same player this season. Beyond him are a list of proven veterans and some nice young talent, none of which stand out as true game changers. In fact, their roster, if anything, seems incomplete. Dion Waiters has opted for surgery on his ankle which will end his season, Justice Winslow just made his return, and they'll be without Rodney McGruder and Okaro White until the beginning of February. So what are they doing right?
I want to simply say, "They're playing better basketball." But that's too... simple. In the month of January they are 6-0 and looking at this month compared to the rest of their season, we can see that they're rebounding better, protecting the ball more, scoring more assisted buckets, and blocking more shots while fouling less. So... they're just... playing better basketball. I personally see this stretch of wins as fool's gold.
Miami is well coached, well managed and as an organization, I think they're exceptional, but the roster leaves much to be desired. They may keep winning, and I definitely think they'll end the season as a playoff team, but it will all be in vain when they inevitably exit in the first, or if they're lucky, the second round. I admire their grit and hustle. They play their hearts out, and when it comes to the playoffs that can go a long way, but when facing a team like the Cavaliers, Celtics or dare I say, the Raptors in a 7 game series you'll need more than exhausting "play for your life" work ethic. After last season's inspired run ending just short of the playoffs, maybe that would be a huge success but in a league that's hyper focused on dethroning the best they're just a blip on the radar. Just another team making a fruitless run. Heat fans can enjoy it while it lasts. They've been fun to watch and that's all you can ask for from a team devoid of any immediate promise.