The Heat are a playoff team … for now. A look at the Eastern Conference playoff race

Miami Heat’s Tyler Johnson (8) grabs a rebound during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns, Tuesday, March 21, 2017, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

The Eastern Conference playoff race has had plenty of twists and turns, and there will surely be more over the final three weeks of the regular season.

With Tuesday’s win over the Suns, the Heat moved from ninth place to eighth in the Eastern Conference (here are the full standings as of Wednesday afternoon). As a reminder, the top eight teams in each conference advance to the playoffs.

Miami (35-36) may currently be in eighth place, but it’s just one-half game behind No. 7 Milwaukee (35-35), 1.5 games behind No. 6 Indiana (36-34) and 2.5 games behind No. 5 Atlanta (37-33). But Miami is also just one game ahead of No. 9 Detroit (34-37) and two games ahead of No. 10 Chicago (33-38).

ESPN’s Basketball Power Index predicts the Heat to finish with a 40-42 record, with a 58 percent chance of making the playoffs. FiveThirtyEight has the Heat finishing with a final record of 41-41 and a 76 percent chance of making the playoffs.

The Bucks, Pacers, Hawks, Pistons and Bulls all play Wednesday night. Milwaukee travels to face Sacramento on the second night of a back-to-back, Indiana travels to face Boston, Atlanta is on the road to take on Washington, and the Pistons and Bulls will face each other in Chicago.

Good news for Miami, the Heat hold the head-to-head tiebreaker advantage over the Pacers and Bucks. Bad news for Miami, the Pistons and Bulls hold the head-to-head tiebreaker advantage over the Heat (Miami can tie the season series with Detroit 2-2 with a win at The Palace of Auburn Hills on Tuesday).

In the case of multiple-team ties, the first tiebreaker is common head-to-head record among the teams involved. After that, the second tiebreaker is conference record.

The Heat currently own a 21-21 record against the East. That’s better than the Pacers (20-23), Bucks (21-22) and Pistons (20-23). The Bulls are tied with the Heat in this department at 21-21, and the Hawks are well ahead at 25-16.

A look at the schedule shows Miami has 11 regular-season games remaining — six on the road and five at home. Six of the Heat’s 11 remaining games come against the East’s top four teams (1 game vs. Cavaliers, 1 game vs. Celtics, 2 games vs. Wizards, 2 games vs. Raptors).

Injuries to Hassan Whiteside (right hand laceration) and Dion Waiters (sprained left ankle) present another wild card in Miami’s situation.

Buckle up.

[Mailbag: How many wins will it take for Miami to make playoffs?]

[Five takeaways: Miami Heat move back into playoff spot with win over Phoenix Suns]

[Heat center Hassan Whiteside receives 13 stitches after cutting right hand late in win over Suns]

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