Miami’s Playoff Pursuit Enters its Final Stretch
April has finally arrived, and with it comes the end of the regular season and the start of the NBA Playoffs. Out West, the eight Playoff teams have been decided and they are using their last few games to jostle for position. Out East, though, only five teams have clinched a Playoff spot, leaving three tickets for four teams that are all bundled together. The Miami Heat is one of those teams in the mix.
Current owners of the eighth spot, the Heat are joined by the Detroit Pistons at sixth, the Brooklyn Nets at seventh, and the Orlando Magic at ninth. A game and a half separates these four teams with only a handful of games left to go. A few more wins for the Heat means a Playoff spot; a few more losses means the lottery. It’s very possible it could come down to the very last day of the season to find out if Miami makes it. It’s just that close.
When teams are close like this, the first thing that needs to be looked at is the tiebreakers, which come into play when two teams end up with the same record. The first tiebreaker is determined by who won more head-to-head matchups. Over the course of the season, Miami tied Detroit at 2-2, lost to Orlando 1-3, and is ahead of Brooklyn 2-1 with one game remaining at the end of the season. The next tiebreaker is better conference play. Miami is at a huge disadvantage here at 22-26 against Eastern teams, while Orlando and Brooklyn are both 26-22 and Detroit is 26-23. It’s nearly impossible for Miami the tie them up in any of these scenarios.
The tiebreaker situation is not a good one. The Magic, who are just half a game behind the Heat for the last Playoff spot, own the first tiebreaker. The Pistons are only one game up but own the second tiebreaker. Our one ray of hope is the Heat beating the Nets in the last game of the of the season to take control of the tiebreaker against them. So the Heat need to both beat Brooklyn and tie them or have a better record than one of those three to make it to the playoffs. Saying the Heat just need to win to get in sounds obvious, but in their case it’s just about the only option they have left.
Miami still has five tough games left for the season, though there may be a little room for optimism.
First, Miami hosts the Boston Celtics on Wednesday the 3rd. Both teams played recently at the Celtics last Monday night, where the Heat almost came back from a 20-point deficit to win. Even though Boston still has something to fight for as they seek home court advantage against the Indiana Pacers, they’re a much worse team on the road.
Next, the Heat travels to Minnesota to take on the Timberwolves on Friday the 5th. Already eliminated from the Playoffs, the T-wolves are playing for nothing but pride. They have homecourt and the best player in Karl-Anthony Towns, though. While not to be written off, this team is still beatable.
On Sunday the 7th, the Heat play at the Toronto Raptors. Fortunately for the Heat, the Raptors are pretty well locked into the two seed and may not have any incentive to bring their top players, thus opting for rest instead. If not, The Heat will have an extremely tough game.
Second to last, the Heat host the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday the 9th. Like the Raptors, the 76ers are pretty well secured at the third seed and so may opt to rest their star players for the Playoffs as well. If Miami fails to make the Playoffs, this will be Dwayne Wade’s last game ever at American Airlines Arena.
The last and probably most important game is on the 10th, when the Heat travel to Brooklyn. As mentioned before, if the Heat wins they’ll own the tiebreaker, as well as a catch up a game on the Nets, obviously, to at least hopefully tie them. This could very well be a play-in game for the Heat and Nets. Expect both teams to give it their all that night.
Miami wants to make the Playoffs. It’s only fitting for Wade to go out in the postseason, where he shines the most. The experience could prove valuable for the young trio of Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow, and Bam Adebayo. Lastly, the Heat pride themselves on being a competitive organization where the Playoffs are the bare minimum, so not making it is almost unacceptable.
As the season comes to a close and the Heat continue their Playoff pursuit, each game has started to carry a heightened sense of urgency with it. The Heat played extremely well in March, going 10-4 this past month. If they can close out these last five games well enough, they should punch their ticket to the postseason.