NBA Miami Heat

5 Eastern Conference Teams That Miami Heat Will Most Likely Face In The Playoffs

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5 Eastern Conference Teams that the Miami Heat Will Most Likely Face in the Playoffs

Five Eastern Conference Teams the Miami Heat Will Most Likely Face in the Playoffs
Kim Klement- USA Today Sports

The Eastern Conference has recently looked the weakest it has ever been, with only five out of the 16 teams currently owning a winning record over .500. With injuries and trades decimating the majority of the Eastern Conference, the road to the Finals through the East is looking a whole lot easier. Las Vegas currently has their odds of the Miami Heat making it back to the NBA Finals at 7-4, the highest of any team in the league, which means most people expect the Heat to battle their way back to the top.

Even though the Eastern Conference isn’t as strong as it once was, there will still be plenty of competition for the defending champs as they make their way through the 2013-14 NBA Playoffs. One of the biggest factors for the Heat will be how they defend against some of the larger frontcourts they will undoubtedly come across in the playoffs. The Heat currently rank 30th in the NBA in rebounding, which is a huge sign that they haven’t truly addressed their big-man needs. All they've done is sign oft-injured Greg Oden, who probably won’t see actual substantial playing time until the playoffs.

Here are the five teams that the Heat will most likely be matched up against in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Most of these teams have a formidable frontcourt, which has been the Heat’s Achilles' heel over the last three seasons. Addressing their size issues needs to be the Heat’s no. 1 priority, but even still, these teams should give the Heat their money's worth in terms of competition.

Jared Doyle is a Miami Heat writer for Follow him on Twitter @outofboundsjay, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google

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5. Toronto Raptors

Tom Szczerbowski- USA Today Sports

The Toronto Raptors haven’t made the playoffs since 2008, currently in the midst of a six-year drought. This year, they will break that drought and finally make it back to the playoffs. The Raptors were able to shore up their bench by adding Tyler Hansborough, Steve Novak, and Austin Daye, which could be what finally gets them over the hump in terms of making the playoffs. The Raptors are a very good rebounding team, currently ranked ninth in the league. This could be a potential matchup problem for the defending champs, but one they should eventually overcome.

Predicted Outcome: Miami Heat Win 4-1

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4. Brooklyn Nets

Geoff Burke- USA Today Sports

Although the Brooklyn Nets are playing atrociously at the moment, one of their three lone victories came against the Miami Heat. Injuries aside, the Nets have a lineup on paper that gives the Heat fits. Both Brook Lopez and Kevin Garnett have the size and length to disrupt the Heat in the paint, plus bother the Heat’s starting frontcourt around the rim. Couple that with the disruption Deron Williams causes offensively as a point guard, and you have the makings of a team built to take down the defending champs. Now, if they can only make the playoffs…

Predicted Outcome: Miami Heat Win 4-2

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3. Atlanta Hawks

Kevin Liles- USA Today Sports

The Atlanta Hawks lost a few key players this offseason, slightly depleting their roster in terms of superstar talent. But, the signing of Paul Millsap (to be paired with Al Horford) has given the Hawks one of the more destructive frontcourts in the NBA, which happens to be the Miami Heat's biggest weakness. Besides being dominant on the glass, this team also likes to share the ball, something the Heat can relate to. The Hawks rank fourth in the league in assists per game, which could be a major reason why they are still in the running for a higher seed in the East instead of bottoming out like some teams do when they lose a highly-paid superstar player. If these two teams were to meet in the playoffs, the Heat would have too much firepower offensively for the Hawks to handle, even with the heavy advantage in terms of rebounding.

Predicted Outcome: Miami Heat Win 4-2

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2. Chicago Bulls

Jayne-Kamin-Oncea- USA Today Sports

The season-ending injury to Derrick Rose is extremely tragic and is a major blow to the Chicago Bulls in terms of future production. You see, this team is destined to make the playoffs with or without Rose due to how weak the Eastern Conference is this year. Because of this, the Bulls will end up with not only a early playoff exit (very similar to what happened last year), but a low pick in what is being called the best NBA Draft in the last 20 years. The Bulls will most likely finish the season with a top-four seed in the East, ultimately playing either the Miami Heat or the Indiana Pacers in the second round (should they make it that far). Without Rose, the Bulls just don’t have the offensive firepower to go toe-for-toe with either of those teams. They are sound defensively, but stout defense can only take you so far in the playoffs, especially against teams with so much offensive talent.

Predicted Outcome: Miami Heat Win 4-1

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1. Indiana Pacers

Mark L. Baer- USA Today Sports

You might as well pencil both these teams in for the Eastern Conference Finals because these are the only two teams in the East that have a legitimate chance of making it. The Indiana Pacers have been scary good this season, not only leading the league in defensive efficiency, but also in the standings at 13-1. This is one of many teams that have constructed their rosters to beat the defending champs, but what makes the Pacers so destructive is how deep they are. This offseason, the Pacers made it priority to shore up their bench, and they did just that by adding Luis Scola, Chris Copeland and C.J. Watson.

Every single matchup between these two heavyweight teams is a blood bath, and don’t expect anything different if these two teams meet in the Eastern Conference Finals. Both Paul George and Roy Hibbert have been playing lights out this season and expect to finally knock the defending champs from their thrones in the playoffs. Home-court advantage will be huge in this series, so how these two teams finish out the regular season will be important. If the season ended tomorrow, the Pacers would have it, but that isn’t the case. Then again, all the Miami Heat would need to do is pull off another 27-game winning streak to claim the top spot, right? It's easier said then done.

Predicted Outcome: Indiana Pacers Win 4-3