For the last two months, it appeared the Miami Heat were headed toward rekindling a postseason series against a familiar opponent.
As the No. 4 seed, the Heat positioned themselves to face the Indiana Pacers in the first round of the NBA playoffs once the season resumed after being postponed due to the coronavirus situation. The Heat and Pacers met in the postseason three teams during the LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade era, including twice in the Eastern Conference finals.
Before Heat fans can reminisce the moments of Paul George, Roy Hibbert and Lance Stephenson, they must first wait and see if the league intervenes. There are reported talks of commissioner Adam Silver restructuring the playoff format by seeding teams regardless of conference.
It would drop the Heat to the No. 8 seed, meaning they would play the No. 9 Oklahoma City Thunder in the opening round at the Wide World of Disney Sports Complex in Orlando later this summer.
The question is this: does it benefit or hinder the Heat?
The Heat won both matchups against the Pacers this season. The highlight was a 122-108 victory Jan. 8 in Indianapolis when Heat guard Jimmy Butler got into a scuffle with the Pacers' T.J. Warren. As Warren walked off the floor following an ejection, Butler blew a kiss in that direction.
Theatrics aside, the Pacers seemed like the better pairing. Domantas Sabonis and Warren had solid seasons but All-Star Victor Oladipo played only 13 games after recovering from last season's knee injury. An added two-month layoff because of the suspension only adds to the rust he acquired while working his way back.
The Thunder are perhaps the scarier opponent because of rising star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, proven players Dennis Schroder and Danillo Gallinari and future Hall of Famer Chris Paul, who has enough playoff experience alone to control the series. Not to mention the Heat aren't particularly strong at point guard.
To make the matchup even more interesting, the Heat would be up against a pair of players they coveted at some point in the past year. They were in talks with trading for Chris Paul last summer before the deal fell apart. There was also interest in Gallinari at the trade deadline.
A matchup with the Thunder not only provides more storylines, but could also present a tougher out for the Heat.
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