As it stands right now, the Miami Heat would face the Indiana Pacers in the first round of the NBA playoffs. As the 4-seed, the Heat find themselves in the same half of the bracket as the Bucks and defending MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. While some may say that’s not ideal, the Heat should seek that second-round match up with Milwaukee.
Miami is one of two teams this season (Denver the other) to have multiple wins over the 53-12 Bucks. The Heat were one of three teams to win in Wisconsin, doing so without Jimmy Butler. Then, in Miami, the Heat held Milwaukee to a season-low 89 points en route to snapping a six-game Bucks winning streak.
During those contests, the Heat made Antetokounmpo work for every bucket. Coach Erik Spoelstra rotated multiple defenders at Giannis, and the Heat limited him to just 13 points that night in Miami.
Leading into a second-round tilt with Milwaukee will afford Spo more than enough time to sharpen those defensive efforts. Miami will have fully integrated Andre Iguodala and Jae Crowder by then, giving the team even more options for Antetokounmpo beyond just Bam Adebayo.
The Heat would ill-afford slipping to the 6-seed, because that would likely signal a first-round tilt with Boston. The Celtics are 2-0 versus Miami this season, including a convincing 19-point drubbing at TD Garden in early December.
The Celtics have length on the perimeter to frustrate Miami’s offensive efforts, and the Heat have always struggled to contain shoot-first point guards, ala Kemba Walker. While the Bucks have the reigning MVP, the rest of their roster lacks the potent punch of someone like Walker.
Upsetting Milwaukee in the playoffs could also have a Durant-like effect on Antetokounmpo’s free agency decision come 2021.
This is not to say that the Heat would have an easy first-round opponent before facing the Bucks. Although Miami is 2-0 versus the Pacers this season, neither game featured Indiana’s best players: Victor Oladipo and Malcolm Brogdon.
Miami may also see the 76ers in the first round. The Heat were 3-1 against Philadelphia this year, including a rousing victory 117-116 overtime win in December. Jimmy Butler versus his former team would incite endless intrigue and entertainment, and Adebayo could give Joel Embiid fits.
Best case scenario for the Heat is they see an Indiana team that’s still integrating Oladipo and a hobbled Brogdon with Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis. They’ll be without Jeremy Lamb, too. They’d move on to an upset win over Milwaukee in the second round and face the battered winner of a series between Boston and Philadelphia for a spot in the NBA Finals.