The Other Side: Miami Heat

Why the grin? I'm back in the playoffs. (Photo by Victor Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)

If the Washington Wizards' win over Cleveland was an encouraging sign of what the team could become, but the franchise will get another reminder that a quick turnaround is possible tonight, in the form of the Miami Heat. After going through a miserable, injury-plagued, 15-win season, the Heat clinched a playoff berth on Friday night with a 97-92 win over the Charlotte Bobcats.

This is only the second time in league history a team has made the playoffs a year after finishing with 15 or fewer victories. The other time it happened was 1968-69, when the San Diego Rockets pulled it off --- with a second-year swingman named Pat Riley. The Heat (40-36) has already won 25 more games than last season, the greatest improvement of any team this season.

Miami has lost four of its past six games. Here's what else you should know about the Heat as it prepares to play the Wizards tonight at Verizon Center:

1. Dwyane Wade Is Not Tired
Wade, the league's leading scorer, likely won't win the MVP award this season, but he has been phenomenal in leading the young Heat back to the playoffs. Wade has played all but one game this season, and despite Charles Barkley's claims that these are "the dog days" for Wade, Wade said he is not tired.

2. Udonis Haslem Is Out
The Heat may be without Udonis Haslem for the rest of the regular season due to a laceration of his right thumb that required six stitches. Haslem leads the Heat in rebounding at 8.7 per game and will be out seven to 10 days. Michael Beasley and Jermaine O'Neal both have sprained ankles and are questionable tonight.

3. Erik Spoelstra Is Letting His Youngsters Learn
Spoelstra is giving his young players the opportunity to play critical minutes down the stretch. The approach led to some painful results in a loss to Dallas, but Spoelstra realizes that the Heat will need more than Wade in the playoffs. Beasley has had a less-than-expected impact his rookie season, but ESPN's David Thorpe said he should pattern his game more after Carlos Boozer.

By Michael Lee |  April 4, 2009; 2:22 PM ET
Previous: Are You Encouraged? | Next: Heat (40-36) at Wizards (18-59), Arenas Out


Please email us to report offensive comments.

Spoelstra knows the obvious, and managed to it despite fighting for playoff position. The Wiz were out of the playoffs for months and never even acknowledged the obvious. Who looks like a knucklehead now?

Posted by: Izman | April 4, 2009 3:37 PM

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