When Cleveland beat Toronto last night, the Heat officially clinched a playoff berth for the sixth time in seven seasons.
For anyone who remembers that 5-8 February debacle, that news might as well be MAN WALKS ON MOON. Or the 7-7 November campaign that was repeated in December, or the 8-9 losing record of January. It's not been a smooth season -- in fact, it's been Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, and now everyone needs a chiropractor and a drink.
But somehow, after all the musical chairs, the Heat have gone 14-3 since March, have won 8 straight, and are feeling pretty good. They've even passed their wins total from last season already.
So take that...whoever they'll play. Atlanta and Boston are still flip-flopping the 3 and 4 seeds, but Miami can't finish higher than 5th -- so it will either be a redo of last year's first round against the Hawks, or a few delightful trips to Massachusetts.
The Heat don't care which, just about maintaining their roll.
"If we continue to build our habits and continue to do the things we've been doing, it doesn't matter who your competition is," Udonis Haslem told Ira Winderman. "I think if you build certain habits, as far as our defensive habits, moving the ball, rebounding, and different things like that, it'll keep us in the game."
Here's hoping. The Heat are finally gelling, sure, but they also haven't played anyone with a winning record in at least 22 days, and the remaining five games are against the Sixers (twice), Nets, Pistons, and Knicks. Is the surge just a product of the schedule's soft landing?
We'll find out. But considering very few onlookers even gave the Heat a chance to see the post-season (guilty!), it feels pretty good just to get there.