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Miami Grit: Why Heat Flourish in Close Games

Teams Like Heat Possess Intangible Quality

The Miami Heat once again proved NBA predictions wrong as they handed the Denver Nuggets their first loss at home to even the NBA Finals at one game apiece. Following Game 2, Heat star Jimmy Butler credited the team’s “I don’t give a damn” attitude for their comeback win.

And seeing Miami’s historic success at overcoming sizable deficits, this may be “grit” on full display.

Miami Grit: Why Heat Flourish in Close Games
Jimmy Butler #22 of the Miami Heat - Matthew Stockman/Getty Images/AFP

How Heat are Pulling Off Tight Decisions

You often hear this in sports: A team with intangibles can beat a more skilled opponent. And among these intangibles is the idea of grit, which is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “courage and resolve; strength of characters.”

It is when players on a team do not wilt under pressure or, in Miami’s case, they rise up.

I just think nobody cares on our team. We’re not worried about what anybody thinks,” Butler said during the postgame conference. “We’re so focused in on what we do well and who we are as a group, that at the end of the day, that’s what we fall back on.”

Indeed, Miami’s unflappable mentality has allowed it to win nearly every close game in these playoffs. Miami is 8-2 in games decided by seven points or fewer in the postseason. In the regular season, the team led the league with a 63.6 winning percentage (14-8) in games decided by one possession. This is the best mark among teams that had 10 or more games decided by three points or fewer.

It feels like we play a playoff game every night. It just shows the grit that we play with. We like to slow the game down and win it in the mud,” center Bam Adebayo said back in February after the team’s 30th game decided by five points or fewer.

It’s this experience being in close games that have developed the players’ thick-skinned approach to the game. It’s why they’ve excelled as NBA picks and continue to be more than the sum of their parts.

Is Grit Enough to Win a Title?

As inspiring as the Heat have been, the Nuggets remain the favorites to win the NBA championship per the online sportsbook. Denver is still, on paper, the better team with its superstar duo of Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray. The former is averaging nearly a triple-double with 34 points a game while the latter has posted consecutive double-doubles.

Miami’s resilience has allowed it to withstand more talented teams’ assault. It took out both Boston and Milwaukee, the two best NBA teams in the regular season. So if it can do this, it could beat Denver.

A quick look at some recent NBA champions may support Miami’s case.

The Bucks won the NBA title in 2021 over the Phoenix Suns. Milwaukee came back from an 0-2 series deficit against Phoenix, just as it had to do against Brooklyn in the semifinals. In 2019, the Toronto Raptors also had to overcome adversity as they went down to the last shot against Butler’s 76ers and then rallied from an 0-2 deficit against the Bucks before toppling Golden State in the NBA Finals.



Milwaukee and Toronto’s core also shares something in common with this current Heat team: playoff heartbreak. The Bucks were upset by Toronto and Miami in the playoffs before breaking through in 2021. And the Raptors were consistently ridiculed for choking in the playoffs prior to making NBA news for their trade for Kawhi Leonard, which led to their title.

Miami lost to the Lakers in their last trip to the NBA Finals and also fell short against Boston in the conference finals last season. The pain of coming so close but losing lingers with Miami’s core. If adversity builds character, this Heat team has a lot of it. And it’s worth betting online for this team to use it and go all the way.

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