The Miami Heat are regarded by many as a dangerous playoff team. It’s for good reason as they have two surprise finals runs over the last four seasons – and were actually one close game away from making it three.

As such, despite only sitting eighth in the Eastern Conference this season, there’s a certain swagger surrounding the group. It was on display last February 24th, when they collected a 105-96 win over the New Orleans Pelicans, who are currently fifth in the West and also seen as one of the deepest teams in the league.

The main highlight, however, was the heated face-to-face between Heat All-Star Jimmy Butler and Pelicans forward Naji Marshall, which saw the latter put his hands on the former’s throat. Both were ejected for the contest, and received one-game suspensions, along with some of their teammates.

Butler also gave a usual brash postgame soundbite, claiming they were the better team, and would win again the next time they faced the Pelicans.


That “next time” was this past Saturday. With hype and tension at a boiling point, though, the Heat looked strangely unprepared for what the vengeful Pels had in store. They got pounded at home, 111-88, and were held to a season-low 36.0% shooting. Butler finished with 17 uneventful points.

As expected, Butler’s previous statements came back to haunt him:

Marshall also gave a nice quip in a now-deleted Tweet:

Bouncing back big

The Heat knew it was an embarrassing performance, and it generated quite an appetite to redeem themselves. They wasted no time punishing the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday, en route into a cruising 121-84 victory, albeit shorthanded with Donovan Mitchell out, but still. 

There was fabulous play on both ends. Offensively, they had seven guys on double figures– all between 10 and 18 points–and the team collectively shot 51.8% from the floor. Defensively, meanwhile, they forced 17 turnovers and only allowed one Cavalier to have more than 10 points, topped off by limiting the Cavs to a season-low in points.

It was also the second time the Heat won vs. the Cavs in four days, and their 2023-24 regular season series has concluded in favor of Miami, 3-1, which then circles us back to the first line of this piece. 

With Miami at 39-32 and flipping through the 6-8 spots in the East, and Cleveland currently at No. 3, the two are potential first-round opponents. The Cavs are a deep team with a talented scorer in Mitchell, surrounded by bevy of highly-capable pieces–Darius Garland (1x All-Star), Jarrett Allen (1x All-Star), Evan Mobley, Caris LeVert, ex-Heat Max Strus, among others– as well as a Top 5-ranked defense in points allowed and defensive rating, but all things considered, the Heat have a solid chance to score another first-round upset should they meet.

We are once again at the point of the season where playoff-tested teams like the Heat are creeping up. While it doesn’t work out all the time since momentum and seedings also play a role, it’s nonetheless interesting to wait and see how experienced  teams quickly shift gears once everyone knows it’s on. We shall soon see if the Heat can go far again after yet another up-and-down regular season.