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ASK IRA: Is expecting a repeat of last season’s path a fool’s errand for Heat?

Q: Ira, the only road to playoff success will be the one traveled last year, a big-time run from the play-in. I’m glad they sat Bam Adebayo in Cleveland. They should hold everyone out until they are 100% and then go for it like last year. – Steve.

A: But this is not setting up like last year. First, the Heat had two home games to win one in the play-in round last year, first losing at Kaseya Center to the Hawks and then beating the Bulls there. If the Heat wind up at No. 8, it would mean a road game to open the play-in round, likely either in Indiana or Philadelphia. Plus, last year there was no runaway team in the East at No. 1, with all due respect to last season’s Bucks. This season, Boston stands at a level of its own at No. 1, and that would be the playoff assignment for the No. 8 seed, which is where the Heat landed last year. Lightning in a bottle is hard enough to capture. Lightning in a bottle striking twice seems more unlikely. The Heat need bodies, even if not 100%. This is a most perilous moment, arguably more perilous than last year at this stage.

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Q: It kind of feels like it’s been that time of the year for the past three seasons. The Heat can’t stay healthy. Players not being available has been a problem for a few seasons now. – Luis.

A: Agree. And at some point, players do merit the tag of being injury prone. But the problem, which is typical for many teams, is compounded when players also are held out for load management or hold themselves out. Such is particularly an issue with players in their 30s, of which the Heat have and have had many. For as much as Tyler Herro being out hurts, so does proactively holding out older players as acts of prevention. Think about it, in the third game of the season the Heat listed Jimmy Butler as being out due to “rest.” And so it began. And so it goes.

Q: Backs are scary. Not sure how this could be medically possible going from the seriousness of Duncan Robinson leaving a road trip and seeing a specialist to playing in a day or two. – Bryan.

A: Which is why I would not put all that much stock into Erik Spoelstra saying that Duncan Robinson’s status is day-to-day. That’s what coaches say. The Heat not only need Duncan, they needed the best of Duncan. He is the Heat’s spacing. Unlike Bam Adebayo and his back issue, the Heat sent Duncan home. That means something.