Cavaliers eliminated as possible first-round opponent for Heat but Miami still in play for sixth-eighth seeds

Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra directs his players during the second half of a game against Chicago last month in Miami. (AP Photo/Joel Auerbach)

MIAMI – While the Heat enter the final day of the season still looking at finishing anywhere from No. 6 to No. 8 in the Eastern Conference, the Cavaliers were eliminated as a possible first-round opponent for Miami on Wednesday.

Philadelphia’s 121-113 victory over Atlanta Wednesday means good friends Dwyane Wade and LeBron James will not meet in the playoffs for the first time. The Heat, though, still could play Toronto, Boston or Philadelphia, depending on Wednesday’s results.

The Heat’s possible seed could have been reduced to sixth or seventh Wednesday had Washington lost to Boston. But the Wizards defeated the Celtics, 113-101, at home to remain alive for the seventh seed with an outside shot at the sixth seed.

With the regular season concluding Wednesday, the Heat and Wizards are 43-38 but Miami is No. 7 and Washington No. 8 because of the tiebreaker. Milwaukee (44-37) is sixth.

The Heat know this much: If they finish sixth they will play Philadelphia. If they finish seventh they will play Boston. If they finish eighth they will play Toronto. But where they finish is very much up in the air.

The Heat host the Raptors, the Bucks play at the Sixers and the Wizards play at the Magic. All games start at 8 p.m. Miami, Milwaukee and Washington all could finish in any of the final three spots.

Here is how Miami can finish No. 6, No. 7 or No. 8.

No.  6: The Heat will finish sixth with a win over the Raptors and a Milwaukee loss, regardless of the Wizards outcome. If the Heat and Bucks finish 44-38, Miami has the tiebreaker because of sweeping the three-game regular-season series. If all three teams finish with 44 wins the Heat have the three-way tiebreaker by virtue of owning the tiebreaker over the Wizards because of conference record thus winning the Southeast Division. That also would assure the Sixers of the No. 3 seed and Miami would then face Philadelphia in the first round of the playoffs starting Saturday in Philadelphia.

No. 7: The Heat will finish seventh if they win, Milwaukee wins and Washington wins; or if they lose and Washington loses, regardless of what happens in the Milwaukee-Philadelphia game. With Boston locked into the second seed that would set up a Heat-Celtics first-round series starting in Boston and likely on Sunday.

No. 8: The Heat will finish eighth if they lose and Washington wins, regardless of what happens in the Milwaukee-Philadelphia game. With Toronto locked into the No. 1 seed that would set up a Heat-Raptors first-round series starting Saturday or Sunday in Toronto.

[With plenty of playoff options remaining, how will Heat treat final regular season game]

[Mailbag: With playoffs looming, should recent performances concern the Heat? Should Wade start?]

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