Miami Heat grab the top spot in the East, but can they retain it?
The Miami Heat have started to uplift their performance as of lately, showing some urgency. As LeBron James stated after the Heat’s latest game, Miami can now smell the playoffs and that’s why every single member of the team is stepping up. Although they have missed some members of their core as of lately, mainly due to health or maintenance reasons, the Heat have now climbed to the No.1 seed of the Eastern Conference for the first time this season. With their victory against the Toronto Raptors last night and in combination to the Indiana Pacers blowout loss to the San Antonio Spurs, Miami now sits at the top of the East. We are about 15 days away from the end of the 2013 – 2014 season. So can the Heat really secure this top spot and enter the playoffs with not just a great momentum boost but also with the home court advantage against the Pacers – or any other opponent?
So why is the first seed so important?
Well, first and foremost it works in the mental part of both the Heat and the Pacers, or any other team in the West. If the Heat finish at the top of the East, they will show, once again, that they are the bosses in their conference – perhaps in the entire league. Although they didn’t record a great season and despite the fact that some of their players saw their respective performances go south, Miami still found a way to stay at the top.
On top of that, the Heat will thus get exactly what the Indiana Pacers won. After the devastating loss the Pacers suffered in Game 7 last year, they decided that they had to do anything on their hands to disallow this same thing to happen again this year. So, they believed that the home court disadvantage was the reason they fell to the Heat last season, and maybe it was but maybe it wasn’t. I mean, the Heat, last year’s Heat we are talking about, would have beat the Pacers even in Indiana on Game 7, right? So the Pacers performed a bunch of offseason moves, trying to fill their wholes and improve their flaws and in a big scale, they succeeded. However, as it now seems, they might just miss their first goal of the season, to clinch the top spot in the East.
Not only did the Pacers suffer a blowout loss to the Spurs, by 26 points, but they have also been playing really bad as of lately. Indiana has major issues on the offensive floor, as in many of the last few games they scored less than 80 points. Indiana has now lost its last three games and five out of its last six, so the loss of the top seed in the East should come as no surprise.
The most encouraging fact for Miami, on the other hand, is that they have managed to top the Pacers even when while playing without their core members. Wade has missed a bunch of games as of lately and Ray Allen has been out for a while. Throw in Greg Oden and Mario Chalmers to the list of absences and you clearly see why the Heat can now stay optimistic that they will win the conference this season, too.
If we take a look at the schedule of the two teams, the Pacers and the Heat, who are the only two teams able to clinch the top seed in the East, we see that Miami is in a better position. The Heat currently have one loss less and they have nine games ahead, in contrast to the seven for Indiana. Out of those nine, six will come at home and three on the road. For the Pacers, only three out of their final seven games come at home. Keeping in mind that the Heat have gone 29 – 6 at home this season, it’s fair to assume that most of those games will be victories. For the Pacers, on the other hand, it’s not that certain that they’ll manage to get as many victories as they want. It’s not mainly about their tough schedule but about the struggles the team had on the offensive end as of lately. With three out of their last seven games coming against playoff teams, the Pacers will have to shake things up if they want to have a chance to regain that top seed.
A very crucial game, which could be the decisive factor for either team and its chances to take the top seed is the game that will be played between them. On Friday, April 11, the Heat will host the Pacers in the American Airlines Arena. Miami is the favorite for this game but the Pacers won their last meeting, a few days ago. If Indiana manages to get the victory, they will stand good chances to secure the top seed.
If you asked me, about which team will stand at the top of the conference when the season ends, I would say the Miami Heat and it’s not just that I am a fan of the team. Really, if you look at the way either team is playing, you would quickly realize that Indiana is kind of struggling. It’s not that the Heat are that good. In fact, both teams seem to not be at their 100 percent, maybe holding something back for the start of the playoffs. However, the Heat definitely look to be in a better situation at the moment. The certain fact is that it won’t be easy for any of those last nine opponents to beat the Heat. So Miami Heat fans, you should be excited about your team and its chances to make the Finals once again and three–peat.