Five Reasons the Heat Should Want to Play the Cavs Next

Miami Heat fans might be witnessing the most confusingly heroic and disgustingly enjoyable brand of their team's playoff basketball. Each game has been a bag of jelly beans: a fair share of deliciously fruity moments mixed with some disgusting licorice ones.

Well, nobody said it would be pretty. Sometimes you have to tell yourself a licorice jelly bean is better than no jelly bean at all. 

Yet there is a vocal faction of Heat fans, and even media, that believes it would be better for the Heat to graciously bow out against the Raptors than to advance and be fed to the rampaging Cavaliers in the East Finals. 

To that I say, hogwash. Hogwash, I say! This Miami Heat team has plenty of reasons to believe it can beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in the next round, and you should too, ya wimps.  

Here are just a handful of reasons it will have been better for the Heat to have faced the Cavs and Kevin Love and lost than to never have faced Love at all.

1. The Heat has proven it matches up well against the Cavaliers. 

Disclaimer here: If Hassan Whiteside can't return to the lineup in time for the Eastern Conference Finals, everyone needs to go to their place of worship and say a few prayers. Nothing the Heat can do well against the Cavs really works without the advantage that is a seven-foot athletic center who deletes the paint, thus helping the Heat concentrate on controlling the three-point line, which is where the Cavs make their money. 

Whiteside has done an excellent job against Tristan Thompson this season. Thompson is the sort of lumbering big with zero offensive game with which Whiteside matches best. There will be no free offensive rebounds for the Cavs against the Heat like there was against the Pistons and Hawks. 

Luol Deng, Josh Richardson, and Justise Winslow are excellent perimeter defenders, very capable of executing a game plan that features trying to run streaky three-point shooters off the line. Goran Dragic can dominate Kyrie Irving on the offensive end. Dwyane Wade always plays his best basketball against LeBron James. Choose your reason not to be so afraid as to wish for defeat. 

Matchups in the NBA matter more than in any other sport, and the Heat match up quite well with anything not named LeBron James that the Cavs have to throw at them. 

2. Even the most pessimistic outcome would still be a win for the Heat.

What's the worst that could happen? The Heat get swept by the Cavs? OK, so exactly what has happened to everyone else? Fine, if you believe that, you need to realize the good that would come out of your worst-case scenario — Pat Riley would have even more respect at the off-season recruiting table.

Imagine a sit-down with Kevin Durant where Riley can explain how he took a ragtag bunch of rookies; a franchise-made, up-and-coming center; and a group of, if we are being honest, average NBA veterans to the East Finals. Oh, and now Chris Bosh will return next year. If a free agent didn't believe in Riley before, he sure does now. This season has been harder for the front office and staff than anything that happened in the Big Three era — that was easy compared to this. 

When this Heat season began, most considered the East Finals against LeBron and the Cavs as the team's ceiling. Now you want to give that all away? 

3. Experience for the future that can't be replicated.

The Heat heavily rely on two rookies and Hassan Whiteside, a guy who had half a season of NBA games under his belt entering this season, so getting high-level playoff experience is invaluable. Is this the only Miami Heat season? Of course not. Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson are already well above the learning curve, and getting them in a series like Cavs-Heat would push them even farther into a place where they could help lead this Heat team for years to come. 

There will come a day when Dwyane Wade is no longer able to carry this franchise on his back. There are only so many series in which players can learn from what he does on a basketball court and how he prepares and fights in a series like Cavs-Heat would be. Want to flush that down the toilet because you're worried about how it might look? It's not about you!

The Heat has about zero draft picks until 2027, so luring free agents with as much success as possible and grooming what the team has on its roster for the future is the best route to continued NBA dominance now, and after Pat Riley. 

4. Dwyane Wade is on a Superman roll, and if you want it to end, you're a bad person.

Dwyane Wade, all washed-up Dwyane Wade himself, is on some kind of run. Maybe some of us forgot. Maybe some of us didn't know he still had it in him. Whatever the case may be, getting to continue to watch it sure as hell beats turning our attention to how cool it is that the Miami Dolphins' new coach has decided holding seminars is better than practicing. It sure beats Marlins baseball. It sure beats the Panthers' offseason, because nobody even knows what happens in an NHL offseason. 

Every year that passes, there is less of a chance you'll get to see those kinds of games from Dwyane Wade. If you think that's blasphemy, ask Kobe Bryant how quickly things can go south. Another East Finals, and a percentage shot at Wade's sixth NBA Finals beats the hell out of anything else you're watching this May. 

I must question your motives if you root for the greatest athlete in South Florida sports history to end one of his last prime seasons sooner than he must. 

5. Are you sure the Cleveland Cavaliers are that unbeatable? 

You're sure? Positive? One month ago, you weren't so sure. Now, after the Cavs beat the Detroit Pistons and the Atlanta Hawks, you're definitely sure? The Heat had few problems with the Cavs in the regular season, which of course means little, but it means something. The last time the two teams met, the Heat won by 21. Cleveland is much the same team as it was in late March. Miami isn't all that different. All that has changed is the two teams have played different levels of competition in the playoffs thus far. 

Heat fans know all too well that LeBron James can get this shook-look about him at the worst times possible. Outside of LeBron, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love, the Heat should fear no one on the Cavs. 

Heat fans should want to get to the Cavs and see what happens, because that's sports. The Heat Lifer campaign doesn't include small print that reads, "In case you think we probably will lose, then root against the Heat." 

The Cavs are good, but are you sure they are that good? It would be best that we find out on the court.
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Ryan Yousefi is a freelance writer for Miami New Times, a lover of sports, and an expert consumer of craft beer and pho. Hanley Ramirez once stole a baseball from him and to this day still owes him $10.
Contact: Ryan Yousefi