It would be overly simplistic to say that out of the chaos, order has been restored for the Miami Heat.
Because they’re still without Tyler Herro and Victor Oladipo. They’re again a series underdog as the road team as they move on to the second round against the New York Knicks. They still are as reliant on their leading man as much as any team still standing in the NBA playoffs.
But now, after a stunning five-game first-round elimination of the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks while playing as a No. 8 seed, it all makes sense:
- The 54 clutch games during the regular season, those when the margin was within five points in the final five minutes.
- The addition of Kevin Love ahead of the buyout deadline.
- The decision to rest 37-year-old Kyle Lowry for a month to ease the knee pain.
- The refusal to quit on the undrafted, unheralded supporting players such as Gabe Vincent, Max Strus, Duncan Robinson and Caleb Martin.
- The insistence that there remained a path to playoff success even with that postseason beginning with the play-in round.
“I mean, it makes for a hell of a story,” Vincent said, with a smile that comes from his team coming back from a 16-point fourth-quarter deficit to win in overtime and send the league-best Milwaukee Bucks home for the summer. “But this group has just been tested time and time again through the season.”
One test passed, as Giannis Antetokounmpo & Co. were left to assess in Cancun how the Heat left the Bucks in their wake.
Another one about to begin, the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals to begin Sunday at 1 p.m. against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
“It’s just been one of these seasons,” an elated-and-exhausted coach Erik Spoelstra said, “for whatever reason, we’ve been dealing with a great deal of adversity — guys in and out of the lineup, and all these games, clutch games, and then having to go through the play-in — it feels like this was the finish of our second-round series.
“But for whatever reason, and this is what you always hope for, all these experiences made us more connected.”
So after an uneven start in Wednesday night’s series-clinching victory at Fiserv Forum, Bam Adebayo closes with a triple-double.
So after scoring 56 points in the Heat’s Monday night victory at Kaseya Center, Jimmy Butler comes back with 42 more on Wednesday night, including the game-tying basket with five-tenths of a second to play in regulation.
So after losing Herro in Game 1 against the Bucks with a broken hand and Oladipo in Game 3 with a torn patellar tendon in his left knee, Vincent rises up with 22 points on Wednesday night.
And after being viewed as too-past-their prime, Love closes with 15 points and 12 rebounds Wednesday and Lowry 10 points.
“It just says we’re a resilient group,” Butler said. “We stick together through everything. Yeah, I’m sad that Tyler and Vic are not here to celebrate this with us. But they were still with us in spirit.
“We just play hard. We know what we’re capable of. We don’t listen to the outside noise, and we will not listen to any outside noise. We’re going to do what we do.”
Which basically was to issue a first-round rebuke to the playoff’s seedings, now hardly viewed as the last team in, but rather as a heck of a hard out.
“A lot of people didn’t believe in us,” Adebayo said. “and the guys in the locker room, the coaching staff, and everybody who gets on that bus, everybody has faith.
“To me, it ain’t about the doubters and haters. It’s about everybody that got on that bus with me. We did something a lot of people didn’t think we were going to do.”
Ready now, after an earned three-day layoff, for more.
“You look at the first four months of the season, there were so many moving parts,” Spoelstra said. “But we stabilized the last six to eight weeks.
“So we earned a chance to be in the playoffs. And then we earned a chance to get to the second round to compete against a very good basketball team.”
Eastern Conference semifinals
(No local television on Bally Sports Sun)
Sunday: at New York, Madison Square Garden, 1 p.m., ABC.
Tuesday: at New York. Madison Square Garden, time and broadcast TBA.
May 6: at Miami, Kaseya Center, time and broadcast TBA.
May 8: at Miami Kaseya Center, time and broadcast TBA.
May 10*: at New York, Madison Square Garden, time and broadcast TBA.
May 12*: at Miami, Kaseya Center, time and broadcast TBA.
May 15*: at New York, Madison Square Garden, time and broadcast TBA.
* – if necessary.