At some point, the Miami Heat are going to have to consistently beat very good teams to reach their goal.
That point is in May. Nearly six months from now.
Right now, the Heat’s much publicized 3-7 record against teams over .500 is pretty meaningless as a predictor of future success. The Heat team that takes the floor in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs will feel different than the one than takes the court Monday night in Milwaukee.
As Tom Ziller points out at SB Nation the Heat’s struggles are not uncommon. Right now the Lakers are 11-2 against teams under .500 and 2-4 against “good” teams over that threshold. Do you question if they will be good in the playoffs? Ziller then goes on to point out every team has a worse record against the good teams than the bad ones. Which is logical, it’s harder for everyone to beat good teams.
What has been the best statistical predictor of playoff success is point differential per possession — how much do you outscore your opponent by. It’s not perfect, but it is more accurate a predictive tool than anything else out there.
And the Heat have outscored their opponents by an average of 8.9 points per 100 possessions. Who is better than that? Boston (9.6), the Spurs (9.5) and the Lakers (9.4). Nobody else. That is pretty elite company.
And as Tom Haberstroh points out at ESPN, each of those teams brings back its core of the last few years. Those teams have their identities, their patterns for success that the Heat are just trying to figure out. It was never going to be simple to blend LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh together (especially with key players like Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem injured).
You don’t have to like it, but the fact is the Heat are elite. You can pick apart their record however you wish, but notice that the key indicators are all good and this team seems to be picking up confidence. They are very good now. They will be elite come May.