Miami will open the East finals at home next week, and it’ll be a playoff rematch from its march to the title last season. If Indiana beats New York — the Pacers lead that series 3-1 — on Thursday night, then the Heat and Pacers will meet in Game 1 in Miami on Monday night. If the Knicks extend the Pacers to at least six games, then the East finals would open Wednesday night, regardless of opponent.
The Heat will almost surely be big favorites against either Indiana or New York, though it’s certain either opponent would enter a series against Miami with plenty of confidence. The Knicks went 3-1 against the Heat this season, outscoring them by 11.5 points per game and winning both of their games at Miami convincingly. The Pacers went 2-1 against the Heat, winning twice in Indianapolis and losing their lone game in Miami.
To put that in some more perspective, the Heat went 2-5 against the Knicks and Pacers, and are now 72-12 against all other NBA clubs this season.
“It only gets more difficult and more challenging,” Spoelstra said. “That’s what competitors want.”
Then again, given how Miami has played over the last 3 1/2 months, the notion of the Heat losing to anybody four times might seem downright impossible. The Heat lost at Indiana on Feb. 1. They won at Toronto two days later, the first victory in what became a run of 27 straight wins — and the start of a stretch that has seen Miami go 45-3 in its last 48 games.
More than half the league — 17 of the other 29 teams — didn’t win 45 games, total, this season, even including playoffs.
“They’re a great team. A great team,” Thibodeau said. “They’re not going to beat themselves. You have to beat them.
No one would have thought the ending would be so exciting after the way this one started.