Even as Heat tumble, coach Erik Spoelstra makes sure his players see standings every day

Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade talks with coach Erik Spoelstra during Friday’s game against the Bucks. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

PHILADEPHIA – Heat coach Erik Spoelstra makes sure his players see the standings every day.

What they have seen lately is not good.

The Heat were one half game out of the No. 3 seed two weeks ago going into Cleveland. Now, seven games (and six losses) later, Miami (30-27) is clinging to the eighth – and final playoff – spot in the East.

Miami’s latest tumble came Tuesday when it dug a 17-point fourth-quarter hole, rallied, but could not overtake the Raptors in a 115-112 loss.

“We definitely understand there are 20-odd games left and we definitely understand where we’re at in the standings, coach makes sure we see the standings every day,” Dwyane Wade said following the loss in Toronto.

“This game would have been a great one to get. There’s no moral victories at all. We needed this game. We got to focus and turn our attention on the next one and try to go into the break feeling good about ourselves and come out of the break knowing we got to go.”

That next one is tonight in the final game before the league breaks for All-Star weekend. The Heat face the team closest to them in the standings, the 76ers, who hold the seventh seed, one/half-game ahead of Miami.

“We’re really focused on the improvement and process of it but there is a bottom line to this business,” Spoelstra said.

The difference between a win and a loss tonight will mean the different between heading into the break seventh or eighth in the conference. Either way, the Heat will welcome the break,

Miami returns next Friday with a game in New Orleans and then face a much more favorable schedule with 15 of its final 23 games at home. Of course, that means taking care of business in AmericanAirlines Arena where Miami is just 14-12.

In addition, Miami hopes to be as close to full strength as it has all season with wingman Rodney McGruder expected to make his season debut next week after having surgery in October to repair a stress fracture in his left leg, and big man Kelly Olynyk hoping to return from a strained left shoulder. Olynyk will miss his fourth straight game tonight.

“We know it’s a long season, a lot of ups and downs,” Goran Dragic said. “If you look (six weeks) ago we were eighth, we were ninth and Detroit was (fifth) place. Two weeks ago, we were opposite.”

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[How much longer does Wade want to play? Plus he talks LeBron, Riley and reception he’s received in Miami]

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