Playoff update: Heat moving closer to first-ever playoff matchup between Dwyane Wade and LeBron James

The Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade and the Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James hug after the Heat defeated the Cavs, 98-79, at the AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on March 27. (Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald/TNS)

NEW YORK – Dwyane Wade and LeBron James never have faced each other in a seven-game series.

That chapter could be coming soon.

With Washington and Milwaukee losing and Cleveland winning on Thursday, Miami moved closer to sewing up the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference.

The Cavaliers’ win gives them a half-game lead on the Sixers for the No. 3 spot and the teams play tonight in Philadelphia.

The third seed hosts the sixth seed when the playoffs open next weekend.

The Heat (43-36) are a game ahead of the Wizards and Bucks (both 42-37) and own both two-way and the three-way tiebreakers, meaning they are in a sense two games ahead with three to play. Washington lost at Cleveland and the Bucks dropped a home game to Brooklyn on Thursday. The Heat, who play at New York tonight, can clinch the sixth seed by winning two games. Miami finishes the season with home games against OKC and Toronto.

At No. 6, Miami would then open the playoffs at the team with the third best record in the conference. Cleveland (49-30) inched ahead on Philadelphia (48-30) with its win Thursday and can virtually secure the third spot with a victory tonight. That would give the Cavs a 1.5-game lead and the tiebreaker with two games remaining against the Knicks. The Sixers have three remaining after tonight at Dallas, at Atlanta and home against Milwaukee.

Wade and James are best friends and teamed up to lead the Heat to four Finals appearances and the 2012 and 2013 NBA titles.

James then returned to Cleveland in 2014 and two years later Wade left the Heat to return to his hometown, Chicago.

But while James has thrived in Cleveland, leading the Cavs to three straight Finals appearances and the 2016 title, Wade’s return home was not as successful and he and the Bulls agreed to a buyout last summer, allowing Wade to become a free agent.

Wade and James then hooked up again with Wade signing with the Cavs, but that, too, did not work out for Wade, who was traded to the Heat on Feb. 8 for a second-round pick.

Now back with the team where he spent his first 13 seasons, Wade has fit in nicely and accepted his role off the bench. He and James have met once this season, with the Heat defeating the Cavs, 98-79, on March 27.

Wade scored 12 points in that game while the Heat, and mostly James Johnson, held James to 18 points, which at that point equaled his lowest scoring game in more than seven weeks.

The Heat’s possibilities were narrowed by one spot on Thursday. Indiana’s win over Golden State eliminated the Heat from finishing fifth. Miami now can only finish sixth, seventh or eighth.

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