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At the beginning of the postseason, oddsmakers estimated Miami Heat had less than a 1% chance of making it to the 2023 NBA Finals. This was likely due to the fact that this season Miami was ranked as the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference with a 44-38 record. Even though the estimated chances of the Heat making the playoffs were low, we watched the team defeat all odds as they overcame every challenge that came their way when facing some of the strongest teams in the East, the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics.
Being the No. 8 seed, the Heat had to participate in the play-in tournament, where they faced No. 7, Atlanta Hawks and lost 116-105. They had one last chance to make the playoffs, in a game vs. No. 10, Chicago Bulls where Miami came out on top with 102-91, earning a spot to play No. 1 seed Milwaukee Bucks in Round One. Despite losing point guard, Tyler Herro—who broke his hand in the first game—Miami was able to win the series 5-1. In the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Heat faced the No. 5 seed, New York Knicks, and won the series 4-2. In order to advance to the finals, the Heat beat the No. 2 seed, Boston Celtics, 3-4, even with many saying going to Game 7 meant it was over for the Heat.
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Throughout their playoff run, the Heat has continued to surprise fans and proven they are not to be underestimated. Miami has become the first team that has participated in the play-in tournament to make it to the NBA finals and the second team in NBA history ranked No. 8 to make it to the Finals—after the New York Knicks in 1966.
Small forward, Jimmy Butler, played a crucial part in the Heat achieving this by getting the highest point average per game, at 28.5 along with center Bam Adebayo, who averaged the most rebounds for the team at 9.2 rebounds per game. Butler achieved the highest average for the Heat throughout the playoffs and was recognized for his efforts by being awarded the Larry Bird trophy, which is given to the MVP of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Courtesy of Jim Rassol
The star players aren’t the only ones who contributed to the success of the team. This season the Miami Heat have nine undrafted players, including starters Max Strus and Gabe Vincent, along with Caleb Martin who started three out of 18 games he played. In Game 7, Martin made 4/6 3-pointers and 11/16 field goals, achieving a total of 26 points, which was two less than Butler. Since he was one of the best and most consistent players for the Heat throughout the series, Martin was one vote behind Butler to receive the Larry Bird trophy. Strus, Vincent, and Martin’s accomplishments are proof that when you put in hard work and take advantage of every opportunity you get, you can succeed.
When the Celtics were on the verge of making history by being the first team to come back from being down 3-0, many in the media were overlooking the history the Heat could make as well. As the Eastern Conference champions, the Heat are once again facing a higher-ranked team: the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, the Denver Nuggets. As the 2023 NBA Finals start, the media continues to pay closer attention to the Nuggets and if this postseason has taught us anything, it’s that we should not rule out the Miami Heat