MIAMI – The Heat had a chance to narrow their playoff possibilities on Monday, but a fourth-quarter meltdown against the Thunder did nothing to clear up the picture.
The Heat walked off the court following the 115-93 loss to Oklahoma City at AmericanAirlines Arena – a game in which Miami was outscored 39-12 in the fourth quarter – still with the possibilities of finishing No. 6, No. 7 or No. 8 in the Eastern Conference. And with four opponents – Toronto, Boston, Philadelphia, Cleveland – still remain as possible first-round opponents for Miami.
The Heat, though, did drop a spot to No. 7 with their loss combined with Milwaukee’s victory over Orlando. Milwaukee (44-37) is sixth, one-game ahead of the Heat (43-38), who are one-half game ahead of No. 8 Washington (42-38). The Heat have the tiebreaker on both teams.
As for the top half of the bracket, Toronto and Boston are locked into the top two seeds.
The Heat conclude the regular season Wednesday with a home game against the Raptors. Here is how they 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 at Philadelphia on Wednesday, regardless of what Washington does. The Heat have the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Bucks from sweeping the three-game season series and if the Wizards win their final two games and create a three-way tie the Heat would have the advantage over both because they would be the Southeast Division champion by virtue of winning the two-way tiebreaker with the Wizards. Washington plays Boston tonight at home and Wednesday at Orlando.
No. 7: The Heat will finish seventh if they and Milwaukee both win their final game no matter what the Wizards do in their final two games, or if Miami and Milwaukee both lose its final game and Washington wins one or none of its final two games.
No. 8: The Heat will finish eighth only if they lose Wednesday and Washington wins its final two games.
As for Miami’s opponent, it is looking less likely the Heat will face the Cavaliers, which means we will not see the first-ever series between Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. If Philadelphia wins at Atlanta tonight and the Sixers are a 9.5-point favorite over the team tied for the worst record in the East, that eliminates any chance of Miami facing Cleveland.
The reason: If the Heat finish sixth that means Philadelphia then would have defeated Milwaukee on Wednesday and the Sixers would be third. If Milwaukee wins that game then the Heat are seventh or eighth and will play Toronto or Boston. There is no way, then, that Miami can be No. 6 and Cleveland No. 3.
The Sixers can wrap up the third seed two ways, either by defeating the Bucks or the Cavaliers losing to the Knicks at home Wednesday.