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NBA: MAY 29 NBA Playoffs - Heat at Celtics

Source: Icon Sportswire / Getty

The Miami Heat open up the NBA Finals tonight when they take on Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets.  It’s been a spectacular run to the Finals for the Heat, who barely made it into the postseason to begin with.  Trailing the Chicago Bulls in the fourth quarter of the final play-in game they looked ready for the off-season to start but they pulled themselves together and beat the Bulls before taking down the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in a dominating 4-1 series win, knocking off the New York Knicks in six games and embarrassing the Boston Celtics in a decisive Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Despite a track record in this postseason, many are still writing off the Heat ahead of their series with teh Nuggets. Denver has dominated this postseason but they are the top seed in the west so that was more or less expected from them.  No one saw this coming from an 8th-seeded Heat squad featuring Jimmy Butler and more undrafted players than most G-League teams.

Can Playoff Jimmy and the Heat pull one last rabbit out of their hat?  We’ll have to wait and see.  We’ll also have to wait and see what the Indiana Pacers and other mid-to-small market teams take away from the Heat making such a playoff run.  Is it strictly on Jimmy Butler taking a group of cast offs and getting the most out of them?  Is it the “Heat Culture” we keep hearing about where they find and develop talent that was otherwise dismissed by other teams?  How can the Pacers harness this strategy going forward to reap the benefits?

Tyrese Haliburton sure looks like he’s got some Jimmy Butler in him.  Benedict Mathurin sure sounds like he does too.  The Heat have gotten this far not just off of Jimmy Butler but off of their role guys stepping up when called upon.  Duncan Robinson, Caleb Martin, Max Strus and others have all showed up when the lights shined their brightest and when the pressure of close games was on and they have delivered consistently.  The Pacers need to be able to have a support staff around Haliburton that can take the pressure off of him.  We started to see that this past season, albeit in flashes.  Mathurin would spark here and there, Andrew Nemhard would show out now and then, Buddy Hield was a pretty solid 3-point shooter the majority of the season.  The Pacers need all of those guys to improve on everything they did last season and see some others step up.

Can the Pacers find a 1-B player to their 1-A in Haliburton?  Is that in the draft or could they use some of their five draft picks to facilitate a trade for a player on or near that level? By all accounts, this should be the last postseason that doesn’t involve the Pacers for quite a while.  They’re on the verge of seeing years of struggles start to bear fruit.  Can they catch a Heat-type postseason run or two during the next few seasons?  Can they elevate themselves to Nuggets-like status in playoff seeding?  That’s a tall order for any team but now that the Heat have shown a pathway to success it’s up to the Pacers to take the ball and run with it.

-Marc Dykton

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