Heat showcasing stellar depth, ranking among Eastern Conference’s elite despite injuries and absences

The Heat, without Kyle Lowry and Tyler Herro, fell to the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night, but despite that, they remain in a good place to make the playoffs in the second half of the season.

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The Heat dazzled the NBA world by reaching the NBA Finals during the 2020 bubble season as the fifth seed, but last season, after finishing sixth, Miami crashed out of the playoffs, swept by the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round.

The cost of two seasons played in a condensed period of time took its toll on the Heat, but Miami entered this season healthy and full of hope.

Unfortunately, the 2021-22 season has also presented its challenges.

Tyler Herro has elevated his game and is the clear sixth seed of the year, but the Heat’s main players, consisting of Herro, Bam Adebayo, Jimmy Butler, Kyle Lowry and PJ Tucker, have only managed to appear in a total of 14 games together. . .

In games without Adebayo the Heat are 17-8 and 12-6 in games without Butler.

The fact that Miami sits in third place in the Eastern Conference at 29-17, just a half-game behind the top seed, is a testament that coach Erik Spoelstra can get the best of the number of players called up next.

During Adebayo’s nearly two-month absence, in addition to being without Butler (their leading scorer), Miami has had to rely on top performances from role players like Max Strus, Gabe Vincent, rookie Omer Yurtseven and Caleb Martin.

Strus is averaging 11.7 points per game, Martin 9.6 and Vincent 8.9 as they have all stepped up at various stages this season.

The Heat do what they have historically done: play tough defense.

The Heat rank eighth in defensive rating (107.7) and have had to rely on the toughness of their defense to get through some games this season.

Since 1995-96, only the San Antonio Spurs (24) have made more playoff appearances than the Heat (20). At this rate, Miami is on track to further close that gap this season.