Miami Heat : Finishing strong down the stretch

Miami Heat Basketball

Miami Heat

The Miami Heat are on roll in South Beach. Riding a four-game winning streak, the Heat look extremely good beginning the month of April.

In each the last four games, Miami has defeated its opponents by 10 or more points. They earned wins against the Detroit Pistons, two against the Milwaukee Bucks (one at home and one on the road) and also defeated the Toronto Raptors.

Miami dominated the game from the initial jump, cruising past the Milwaukee Bucks 96-77 Wednesday evening. Playing without Dwayne Wade, Greg Oden and Ray Allen, the win, in my opinion, sets three focal points: the Heat are playing well, the bench can deliver in times of need and the team is coming together at the right time despite playing a mediocre team in the Milwaukee Bucks.

LeBron James led all scorers for the Heat with only 17 points, followed by Chris Bosh with 15 points and Mario Chalmers contributed 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the floor. In addition, Miami won the battle of bench scoring, 35-21. The Heat led 33-19 at the end of the first quarter and increased the lead to 56-38 by halftime.

For the Bucks, shooting was not an issue. However, they committed 17 turnovers which allowed the Heat to score 15 fast break points. Although limiting the Heat to only 21 points in the third quarter, the Heat went on a 13-4 run in the fourth quarter to seal the game.

The win keeps Miami one game ahead of a tough Indiana Pacers team that is vying for first place in the Eastern Conference.

However, it is imperative that the Heat finish strong in the final eight games of the season. The average winning percentage of Miami’s last eight opponents is .491, however, five of those games are against probable and potential playoff teams with an average winning percentage of .556.

Luckily, for Miami, three of those five games ( against New York, Brooklyn and Indiana) are at home where the Heat are 30-6. The two road games include Memphis and Washington. Currently, the Heat are 22-16 on the road, however, these two games should not pose a big threat towards the team if they continue to play well offensively and defensively and receive high productivity from key bench players like Norris Cole, James Jones, Chris Andersen and Rashard Lewis.

With the Pacers playing well, if Miami wants to enter the playoffs with the number one seed in the Eastern Conference, they must finish continue to play well down the stretch, although it may not be easy.