Playing the worst team in the NBA twice in the span of five days was something the Miami Heat were afforded in the latter end of this season’s schedule, and it has given the defending champs new life heading into what could arguably be one of the most intense playoff stretches they have experienced together. Even in light of sitting Dwyane Wade (hamstring), Greg Oden (back) and Ray Allen (flu), the Heat were still able to walk away with a 96-77 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks, keeping them still just .03 percentage points ahead of the Indiana Pacers for the No. 1 spot in the Eastern Conference.
The amount of depth the Heat have on their roster has afforded them the luxury of resting key players down the stretch of the regular season, which has given other role players opportunities to gain quality playing time. James Jones, a player who hasn’t touched the court in more than a handful of games this season, has averaged 9.3 points, 2.8 rebounds and 56 percent from beyond the arc over the last four games, all games which the Heat won might I add. This exact type of depth is why Erik Spoelstra isn’t worried about resting his star players so close to the playoffs; the depth on the Heat’s roster more than makes up for the absences.
The Heat’s coaching staff has to make some tough choices soon. With the No. 1 seed in the East still up for grabs, the choice to ride out starters like LeBron James and Chris Bosh while other players rest could have negative consequences in the playoffs. The rest of the schedule for the Heat is about as even as it gets, with three remaining games against sub .500 teams and five games against playoff bound teams. The Heat will absolutely need to win six or seven of these games, especially against the Pacers on Apr. 11, in order to secure the top seed in the East throughout the playoffs. For now, though, the Heat as a team get to enjoy this easy stretch of schedule and rest quality players in order to keep them fresh.