Here's The Real Reason Why Everyone Should Still Be Terrified Of The Miami Heat

lebron james and dwyane wade of the miami heat

Photo: AP

The Miami Heat have been on cruise control since the All-Star break.They’ve basically beaten up on bad teams while getting trounced in high-profile road games against good teams (see a full analysis here).

As a result, NBA fans and media types are starting to worry that they aren’t properly prepared for the playoffs. The same thing is being said about the Bulls (who’ve rested Derrick Rose liberally) and the Thunder (who’ve lost 5 of 9 after dominating the NBA for the majority of the season).

The assumption is this: You need to finish strong in order to succeed in the playoffs.

In short, that’s a lie.

Check out this chart of how all 42 eastern and western conference champions since 1991 played in the last 10 games of the regular season:

chart of nba teams regular season performance in last 10 games

Photo: Tony Manfred/Business Insider

Nine teams (21%) have reached the Finals after playing .500 or worse down the stretch. But for the most part, Finals teams have finished the regular season strong. The “down the stretch” winning percentage for these teams is .662.

But that doesn’t mean playing well down the stretch gets you to the Finals. Take a look at this chart of 1 or 2 seeds in either conference that have lost in the first two rounds of the playoffs since 1991.

nba playoff upsets chart

Photo: Tony Manfred/Business Insider

The “down the stretch” winning percentage of these 27 teams: .655, basically the same as the teams that have made the Finals during that same period.

In short, playing well down the stretch means nothing. Teams that play well down the stretch can either lose early or make the Finals. And teams that stumbled down the stretch can either make the Finals or crash out early.

Miami, Chicago, and Oklahoma City might be struggling, or they might not be. But the point is it doesn’t make much of a difference come playoff time.

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