Skip to Content

Thank God That’s Over

Nikola Jovic #5 and Tyler Herro #14 of the Miami Heat walk to the bench during the third quarter of game five of the Eastern Conference First Round Playoffs at TD Garden on May 01, 2024 in Boston, Massachusetts.
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

In our NBA playoff preview, I made the case that "[a]nything short of a Celtics sweep would be a historic achievement for the Mighty Miami Heat" in the first round. Thanks to Boston mercy-killing Miami on Wednesday by a score of 118-84, clinching the series at 4-1, I can say that I was both right and wrong in that assessment. The Heat won Game 2 of this series thanks to a historic (there's that word again) barrage of three-pointers, so I should be happy that my prediction of a one-sided sweep did not come to pass. However, thanks to losing the other four games of the series by a combined ... oh god, 88 points, the Heat now enter this offseason in bad shape, and I for one couldn't be happier to not watch this team play basketball again for a few months.

The Heat were dead as soon as Jimmy Butler went down with an injury. So often the playoff hero for the Heat since coming over from the Sixers in 2019, Butler didn't really have a chance to do that this postseason. During the team's first play-in game, a Nicolas Batum-aided loss in Philadelphia, Kelly Oubre Jr. landed awkwardly on Butler's leg in the first quarter. Despite Butler finishing out the game, he was clearly hobbled, and was later diagnosed with an MCL sprain. He missed the Heat's second play-in game and all of the Boston series, though he still had time to make an insane and Butlerian claim after the Heat's Game 2 win, stating that they would soon be up 2-1. That did not age well.

Also not aging well? Butler himself. He'll be turning 35 before next season kicks off, and it's not a young 35. Between his time in Chicago under Tom Thibodeau, playing a million minutes per game, and the multiple long runs into the playoffs with the Heat, Butler has a lot of minutes on his legs and has picked up some kind of injury in three of five postseasons with Miami. Butler, who has two years left on his contract and is reportedly looking for an extension to add another season on top of that, was among the Heat players this regular season to be banged up, missing 22 games, only with the hope that he would turn it back on during the playoffs. That didn't happen, and Miami was left to face Boston without its best player.

If that were the only major injury that the Heat faced this series, it might have been more respectable, but that's not the type of season this team has had. Terry Rozier came over in a trade back in January, and after a slow start, was playing his best basketball with the Heat heading into the postseason. Then he was diagnosed with neck spasms on April 7, and he somehow went from "day to day" to missing the entire postseason. Josh Richardson was just finally rounding into form when he had to get shoulder surgery that knocked him out for the year. Duncan Robinson hurt his back late in the season, and was clearly not the same player who mean-mugged the Celtics home crowd in Game 7 last season. Just to add some more pain, Jaime Jaquez Jr., who somehow took a bit of a leap in the playoffs of his rookie year, missed Game 5 of the Celtics series with a hip injury.

It would be easy to look at all of the injuries to key players and imagine a world where a healthy Heat team knocked Boston off again for the third time in five years. That would be a mistake, though. I watched this Heat team all season through pained eyes, because the Heat have stagnated on offense. Sure, the defense has been as good as it often is under Erik Spoelstra, and it will likely remain that good with Bam Adebayo in the mix, but the offense is finally folding under the weight of the Heat's roster construction.

It's charming that Miami has turned so many unheralded players into key contributors, but for every "Caleb Martin in the 2023 Eastern Conference Finals," there is a "Caleb Martin in the 2023-24 season." Take away all of the Heat Culture nonsense, and what Miami is right now, as it heads into yet another pivotal offseason, is simple. It is Butler and Adebayo, neither of whom can carry the team by themselves anymore. Credit to Adebayo for trying against Boston; he was far and away the best player on the Heat through the five games, and though I'd like to see him attack the basket more aggressively, he rained jumpers down on Boston just enough to put pressure on the defense.

Miami is also Jaquez Jr. and Nikola Jovic, two youngsters who carried themselves well enough even in the beatdown to earn a bigger role next season. It is Robinson and Rozier providing offense off the bench when they are not sidelined and/or hobbled. And it is Spoelstra, who still remains the best coach in the NBA.

What it maybe should not be anymore is Tyler Herro. Aside from a calm and collected Game 2 performance, Herro was terrible against Boston: He averaged a paltry 16.8 points per game as the lead offensive option, while shooting 38 percent from the floor and 35 percent from three. Worse than that, he was constantly picked on by the Celtics' offense, and specifically Jaylen Brown. Brown hunted Herro on switches Wednesday night with relentless efficiency, finishing with 13 points while guarded by the Heat's mercurial guard, on 5-of-8 shooting. Herro's stock somehow increased last postseason, while he sat with a broken hand and Heat fans, me included, begged for his return just to add another shot creator and taker into the mix, particularly when the offense fell flat against Denver in the Finals.

Unfortunately, despite some sparks of life throughout the season, Herro turned out to not be the answer. Between his injury history and the fact that he hasn't performed well in the playoffs since his rookie season, Herro's trade value has never been lower. He still has three more years at $31 million per on his contract, so Miami will have to try to offload him, rather than use him in a package to get better.

That's a problem for later, though. Right now, I am glad that this team, which was not very fun to watch all season but which still made me keep hope that they would turn it around in the playoffs once more, is done and dusted. I hate that it had to be the Celtics to do the deed in getting Miami out of here, but it's also fitting that the Heat's most vicious rival in recent years was the one to perhaps drive a nail into the coffin. Mainly, I'm hoping that going out this sad against a Boston team that took a brutal loss last year and then reloaded with purpose will inspire the Heat to do the same. For the first time in five years, since before the Butler trade, the Heat are in such a terrible position as to force Pat Riley's hand into making some deep changes to the roster. As long as there's no "running it back" involved, I'll get right back on this wild ride next season.

Already a user?Log in

Welcome to Defector!

Sign up to read another couple free blogs.

Or, click here to subscribe!

If you liked this blog, please share it! Your referrals help Defector reach new readers, and those new readers always get a few free blogs before encountering our paywall.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter