The Miami Heat are going back to the playoffs.
On Tuesday, the Heat defeated the Boston Celtics for the second-consecutive time to lift themselves out of the Play-In Tournament range and into a top-six seed in the East. Do the reigning conference champions have another NBA Finals push in them?
Playoff seeding still up for grabs
Now that the Play-In Tournament is no longer a point of concern for the Heat, they shift their pursuit to home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
The win over the Celtics ties Miami with the Atlanta Hawks for the No. 5 seed in the East.
It's also worth noting that the No. 4-seed New York Knicks are in action against the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night. Should the Knicks lose, there would be a three-way tie for the No. 4 seed in the East with only three games remaining. If New York wins, it would maintain its one-game lead over the Heat and Hawks.
In the event of a three-way tie at the end of the season, the tiebreaker would go to whichever team owns the highest standing in their division, which would come down to who wins the Southeast Division between Atlanta and Miami (because the Knicks are already out of contention for their division title).
Once the four seed is decided, it would go back to head-to-head tiebreaker, where the Hawks have the advantage over the Heat, the Heat have the advantage over the Knicks and the Knicks have the advantage over the Hawks.
Phew. Hopefully that all makes sense.
With all of that being said, Miami just may be the one team that no top-three seed would like to see as a No. 6 seed. It already proved last season that they have the recipe to defend Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo, and they have the defence and firepower to try and keep up with the Brooklyn Nets.
While the four-five first-round matchup is still within the Heat's sights, their no-fear attitude makes them a terrifying opponent for any Eastern Conference foe.
Will we see the return of superhero Jimmy Butler?
To be clear upfront, Butler has been stellar this season. Although he wasn't rewarded with an All-Star selection, it doesn't take away from the productive year he has had.
Averaging 21.6 points on a career-high 49.6 percent shooting from the field to go with career-bests of 7.2 assists and 7.0 rebounds and a league-leading 2.1 steals per game, it's clear that Butler has been the engine that makes the Heat go.
But will he tap into another level like we saw last postseason to carry Miami to another NBA Finals?
Butler was great throughout the playoffs last season but in The Finals, he was a superhero. Averaging 26.2 points, 9.8 assists, 8.3 rebounds and 2.2 steals in 43 (!) minutes per game, the five-time All-Star was almost single-handedly keeping the Heat's title hopes alive.
Is he capable of replicating that level of play to lead his team on a deep postseason run?
Bright lights Tyler Herro
After his 2020 NBA Playoffs performance, there were astronomical expectations set for Herro in his sophomore season.
Between a variety of injuries and some health and protocol absences, the 21-year-old was only able to suit up for just over 50 games. In those 50 games, there wasn't as much improvement as anticipated, averaging 15.1 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists while shooting 43.6 percent from the field and 35.9 percent from 3.
His scoring, passing and rebounding averages were all up in the slightest compared to his first regular season, but down compared to his rookie playoff stats. His field goal percentage was nearly identical to last regular season, but his 3-point percentage took a dip.
Herro has proved that he can step up when the stakes are at their highest, but after a plateauing sophomore season, can he get back to the version of himself we saw in the postseason last year?
If he does, it could be a key to another deep playoff run.
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