MIAMI – The Miami Heat’s attempt to complete this stunning turnaround from 19-games under .500 to the brink of playoffs will come down to the final game of the season.
The Heat outlasted the Cleveland Cavaliers 124-121 in overtime Monday, making Wednesday an all or nothing night when it comes to the playoffs.
Tyler Johnson made four free throws in the final 29 seconds after Miami fell behind by a point on a 4-point play by Deron Williams to seal the win.
The Heat (40-41) need a win over Washington at home on Wednesday and a loss by either Chicago or Indiana to finish eighth. The Bulls host Brooklyn and Indiana hosts Atlanta.
If Miami wins and both Chicago and Indiana lose, Miami will be the No. 7 seed.
Milwaukee’s victory over Charlotte Monday means the Heat cannot catch the Bucks.
“Survive and advance,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “This is what our season has been like. We knew this was going to be tough going down the stretch and that was one of the better regular season games, certainly in our building.”
Miami rallied from an 11-point deficit to start the fourth quarter to force the overtime.
Miami had two chances to take the lead in regulation after Goran Dragic tied the score with 55 seconds to play but Wayne Ellington missed a 3 point attempt and James Johnson was called for an offensive foul with 11.7 seconds to play.
Deron Williams turned over the ball in the final seconds and Miami could not get off a shot, sending the game into overtime.
Tyler Johnson led Miami with 24 points. Whiteside had 23 points and 18 rebounds.
Cleveland (51-30) was without LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson. The Cavs fall one game behind the Celtics for the best record in the East.
With win over Washington on Wednesday in their regular-season finale, the Heat would become the first team in NBA history to reach .500 after being 19 games under during that season.
Miami also would finish the second half 30-11 after going 11-30 in the first half.
“Everybody was kicking dirt on us two months ago,” Tyler Johnson said.
OT gives Heat life: After surrendering the lead in the final five minutes, the Heat regained their touch in overtime. A Tyler Johnson jumper, Whiteside tip in and Whiteside jumper gave the Heat a six point lead with three minutes to play. But the Cavaliers sandwiched a 3-pointer from Kyler Korver and 4-point play by Kevin Love around a Johnson drive to pull back with one and took the lead with 34 seconds to play on another 4-point play, this one by Deron Williams. But Johnson made four clutch free throws in the end.
“I wasn’t even thinking, just shoot them,” said Tyler Johnson, who scored half of Miami’s 16 points in overtime. “Everything was quiet. I felt like I was in my zone.”
Fourth quarter rally: The Cavaliers led the Hawks by 26 points entering the fourth quarter Sunday and lost in overtime. One night later they led the Heat by 11 and midway through the quarter was outscored by 17 points in six minutes, allowing Miami to take a 103-97 lead. Miami scored the first seven points on the quarter, grabbed its first lead since the first quarter at 98-95. And although Cleveland rallied from a seven point deficit in the final five minutes, the game went into overtime and Cleveland wilted again.
Spoelstra was asked if he had a special message for his team entering the fourth quarter. “We burned out everything in the first half,” Spoelstra said. “There weren’t any other messages.”
Whiteside with another big effort: Since his lackadaisical effort at Toronto, a game in which he was chewed out on the court and the bench by Spoelstra, Whiteside submitted another solid effort. The Heat center had 30 points and 12 rebounds in Miami ‘s win at Washington on Saturday and then extended his franchise record with his 57th double-double on Monday. He was 8-of-14 from the field. He also had two blocks.
Guards killing Heat: With the exception of holding Washington’s All-Star duo of Bradley Beal and John Wall to 32 combined points on Saturday, the Heat have allowed several guards to go off on them. Add Cavs backup Deron Williams, who started in place of Kyrie Irving, to the list. Williams scored 35 points on 14-of-25 shooting, although he did have 10 turnovers. Williams follows Portland’s Damian Lillard (49) and Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan (40, 38) as guards who have torched the Heat lately.
“Deron Williams was terrific,” Spoelstra said. “They caught fire, we were playing uphill the whole way.”
Both teams shorthanded: Dion Waiters (ankle) is progressing – now is listed as questionable – the Heat guard missed his 12th consecutive game. And although Luke Babbitt (hip) and Josh McRoberts (foot) did not play, they were in uniform on Monday. Babbitt missed his third straight game. McRoberts has missed 49 consecutive games. Cavaliers were without James, Irving (knee) and Thompson (thumb). Although James was listed as having a calf injury, coach Tyronn Lue said he was resting.