Miami's surprise success is starting to falter
Jimmy Butler; shot by Michael Reaves, Getty Images

The Miami Heat have surprised many this season.  The acquisition of Jimmy Butler was expected to improve the teams record and make them more competitive in a weak eastern playoff race.

Those expectations have been surpassed.  The Heat are a top 4 team in the east with a squad of scrappy, team first players who know their role and execute that role to the best of their abilities.

Miami has been full of great surprises this year.  Kendrick Nunn (15.7 ppg, 3.6 assists) was an early ROTY candidate before Ja Morant (and now Zion Williamson) burst on to the scene as favorites.  Duncan Robinson has turned into a critical piece of the offense as a big outside shooter, shooting 43.5% from deep with 8.1 attempts per game.  Bam Adebayo has become an elite big man on both sides of the ball.

But 2020 has not been a great year so far for Miami.  They are 12-13 since the turn of the new year, losing to teams like New York, Sacramento, Atlanta, Cleveland, and Minnesota.  Teams that are far outside the playoff race and matchups that Miami should have taken advantage of in order to distance themselves even further from Philadelphia in the standings.  

Injuries and inconsistent play has plagued Miami as of late.  Currently, Tyler Herro and Meyers Leonard are out with no specific timetable for their return to the lineup.  Three point shooting is a big part of the offense and these two are some threats when it comes to shots from downtown.

Personally, the most recent loss against the Timberwolves is what made me question the future success of this Heat team.  After not playing in the previous two games (1-1 against the Cavs), Jimmy Butler returned to play against his former team.  Karl Anthony-Towns is still out from his wrist injury and Miami has both of their All-Stars in good health, so the win was ripe for the taking.

Miami's defense let the Timberwolves score 129 points on them with D'Angelo Russell leading the way with 27 (I might also add that this was done on Miami's home court).  Minnesota ranks 22nd in the league in offensive rating, so losing to them without their star offensive player surely does not give Heat fans much comfort as we get closer to the playoffs.  

The culture in Miami is strong.  It is one highlighted by strong work ethic and doing anything to win as a team.  Jimmy Butler has the perfect mentality and edge to lead this team and Bam Adebayo is such a good player for this system as a playmaker, defender and scorer.  I would not be surprised to see this Miami team make a deep playoff run but this recent stretch of games has me convinced they need to kick it up a notch in order to read their full potential.