The Miami Heat season is playing out the way it always felt like it would. With five games left in the regular season, the Heat is clinging to the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and the race seems like it will be decided on the final day of the season, when Miami wraps up the year against the Brooklyn Nets in New York.
With five teams battling for the last three playoff spots in the East, the jumble can be hard to track, so David Wilson and Anthony Chiang, the Heat beat writer for the Miami Herald, spend the Heat Check podcast this week sorting through the mess. Strength of schedule, player rest and injuries will all play a key role in determining who gets in, and who finishes on the outside looking in.
For Miami, this manifests through another spate of injuries hitting the Heat (38-39) at the worst possible time. Small forward Derrick Jones Jr. joined combo guard Josh Richardson, point forward Justise Winslow and wing Rodney McGruder on the list of banged up Miami players Monday in the Heat’s 110-105 loss to the Boston Celtics. Can Miami possibly survive without four rotation players?
If the Heat does, it will probably be because of Dwyane Wade. The All-Star guard is rapidly approaching the end of his career, so Wilson and Chiang dedicate the back half of the episode to fully appreciating the future Hall of Famer’s improbably successful final season, and how it affects Miami moving forward. Just what will the Heat do next season when it can’t lean on the three-time champion to be its closer?
Miami has five games left to make sure it can get Wade at least four more games with a first-round playoff series. Wade, at least, won’t make it easy for opponents to cut his career short.