The Miami Heat are just 5-5 since the return of Hassan Whiteside, but make no mistake. They pose a real threat to the Boston Celtics tonight in Miami.
In fact, we’re putting our streak-danger meter up to an 8.5 tonight. That’s just above where it was against a pesky, well-coached Mavericks team on Monday, for 5 reasons, and the second highest it’s been during the run. (Golden State 9.0, Orlando 8.5.)
The Heat is off… and on
1. To the extent anyone has given the Celtics a hard time this season, it’s often been someone with up-front speed and athleticism. (The Cavs, the Bucks, the Mavs, the Warriors, and, previously this season, the Heat itself.) The Heat has shooters and rim-attackers. Danger, Will Robinson.
2. Dion Waiters is a streaky shooter, who can stink it up against the worst teams but giant-kill with the best of them. He has heart, and, indeed, made our podcast’s All-NBA-I-Don’t-Fear-LeBron-James team in 2016-17.
3. The Heat impressed during a 4-3 road swing recently as Whiteside worked his way back into playing shape and rhythm. Even without him, they gave the Celtics all they could ask for in a 96-90 loss in Boston
4. They’re well-coached. We made a lot of jokes about Erik Spoelstra — “coach Lego Figure,” as one wag called him — during the LeBron era. But with a much thinner roster in the post-James post-Wade period, he’s proven himself. Spoelstra is both a top developer and in-game adjustment-maker. You can be pretty sure he’s watched the tape of zone defenses against the Celtics and the struggles of some of Boston’s outside shooters.
5. Kelly Olynyk. There, we said it. Celtics fans know well how frustrating and flat-footed he can be in the post. But they also realize he can occasionally rain threes on the best of them. Luckily this isn’t a Game 7.
The Heat have had 3 days to stew about an embarrassing 120-95 loss to the Indiana Pacers. They’ve seen all the Celtic press clippings and listened to Stephen A. and the ESPN talking heads rave about the Celtics. This has “trap game” written all over it. Happily, so did a lot of other Celtic games this season.