MIAMI — The Heat are on the verge of clinching a playoff spot.
Miami can guarantee a postseason berth on Saturday with a win over the Nets. The Heat could have secured a spot in the playoffs before their game started, but the Pistons defeated the Knicks, 115-109, delaying the celebration.
With six regular-season games remaining, clinching a playoff spot is a formality for the Heat. Miami’s magic number (combined number of wins and Pistons losses it needs to clinch) is one.
The Heat are still seventh in the Eastern Conference. Even with the eighth-place Bucks defeating the Lakers on Friday to pull even with the Heat in the standings, Miami owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over Milwaukee after sweeping the season series 3-0.
Entering their game against the Nets, the Heat are one game behind the No. 6 Wizards, who defeated Charlotte earlier Saturday. Playing for a spot better than sixth seems unlikely with the regular-season winding down, as Miami is four games behind No. 5 Indiana, 4.5 games behind No. 4 Philadelphia and five games behind No. 3 Cleveland.
The last time the Heat made the playoffs was in 2016, when they defeated the Hornets in the first round and were eliminated by the Raptors in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Miami missed the postseason by one game last year, as the Bulls took the Eastern Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot despite having the same 41-41 record because of the head-to-head tiebreaker.
The NBA playoffs open the weekend of April 14-15.