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Can Miami Heat Sustain Hot Start?

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The Miami Heat continued their impressive start to the 2019/20 NBA season with an overtime victory over the reigning NBA champion Toronto Raptors, proving themselves as surprise contenders in the Eastern Conference.

Erik Spoelstra’s men missed the playoffs last season and were not expected to make a charge this term. However, Jimmy Butler has been an astute signing following his move to the franchise during the off-season, while rookies Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn have hit the ground running.

Miami are keeping pace with the leaders in the Eastern Conference that were anticipated to be in contention to reach the NBA Finals. The question now is whether they will be able to maintain their strong start amid tough competition from the Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics, and the Raptors.

Consistency

The Heat will base their surge for the playoffs on the basis of their performances at American Airlines Arena. At the time of writing, Spoelstra’s men are 8-0 on home court, which is easing the pressure on their displays on the road. They were able to play with freedom in their win over the Raptors as confidence has been flowing through the team. As a result, it could be worth considering their odds of 10/1 with Betway to win the Eastern Conference given the value and the fact they’ve also conquered the Bucks this term. It has been a stark contrast to their performances last season.

In the last campaign, the Heat struggled in front of their supporters, with a 19-22 record. The team has found the consistency to their displays, although there has been a pattern to their victories and their defeats. When the Heat has scored over 100 points they’ve have ended on the winning end more often than not – dropping two games to the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Houston Rockets.

Their other defeats have come when they’ve been held under 90 points to quality outfits on the road. The Los Angeles Lakers, Denver Nuggets and the Philadelphia 76ers have been able to stop their flow, although it’s a good sign for the future that the only blemishes on their record to date have been against the elite of the NBA, proving once again that the Heat are in it for the long haul.

Sustaining Performance Levels

Butler is a proven commodity in the NBA and has lived up to the billing since he arrived in Miami, with Josh Richardson moving in the opposite direction. The 30-year-old is thriving on being the centerpiece under Spoelstra, supporting the younger members of the roster alongside Goran Dragic.

The Heat do not have a lot of experience in their side, making the performances of Butler essential to their success. It’s no surprise to see when he has not performed to a high level the team has tended to struggle. Butler has been exceptional thus far at both ends of the court, but he cannot be expected to carry Miami through the rigors of an 82-game season and the playoffs.

Bam Adebayo is developing into a solid presence on the court in the defensive third. He has been a key factor in getting the ball back for the Heat, averaging 10.4 defensive rebounds per game. It needs to be the standard for the 22-year-old, while Justise Winslow also needs to take his game to the next level after a solid start to the term. The two players have enough experience in the NBA to know their games, easing the pressure on the rookies.

Herro and Nunn have been excellent in their opening burst of games, with the latter catching early attention for the rookie of the year award after being named the Eastern Conference rookie of the month for November. It’s encouraging for the Heat to see such performances from their two rising stars, although it remains to be seen whether they can match those performance levels throughout the season.

Verdict?

The Heat are a team on the rise after years of underachievement. Spoelstra is proving that he can coach without elite talent on his team. However, given the quality of competition in the Eastern Conference, it might be a year too soon for Miami due to them being dependent on the performances of their rookies, who are untested in the heat of intense matches down the stretch.

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