Playoff update: Miami Heat’s playoff fate will be decided on final day of regular season

Chicago Bulls center Robin Lopez (8), left, and Chicago Bulls guard Dwyane Wade (3) watch the end of the Miami Heat NBA game as a security guard looks on after The Chicago Bulls defeated the Orlando Magic 122-75. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)

MIAMI — The Heat did their job Monday night, but they did not receive any outside help.

Miami kept its playoff hopes alive with a dramatic 124-121 overtime victory over Cleveland at AmericanAirlines Arena. The Heat (40-41) could not clinch a playoff berth Monday, but they could have moved into a playoff spot with either a Pacers or Bulls loss in addition to their win over the Cavaliers.

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Indiana (41-40) did not cooperate, defeating the 76ers 120-111 on Monday night. And the Bulls (40-41) also took care of business, beating the Magic 122-75.

“I purposely did not,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said when asked if he kept track of the Pacers and Bulls scores during Monday’s game. “It would have totally distracted me. Especially now knowing what happened, I would have been going crazy. That game was enough. I don’t need the ancillary stress, extra stress.”

Miami will enter Wednesday — the final day of the regular season — as the ninth-place team in the Eastern Conference. Only the top eight teams in each conference make the playoffs.

Another path the Heat could have taken to the playoffs was eliminated Monday when the Bucks defeated the Hornets 89-79. If Miami wins its final two regular-season games and Milwaukee would have lost its final two regular-season games, the Heat would have advanced to the playoffs.

Now, the Heat look forward to Wednesday when they host the Wizards to cap off the regular season. To advance to the postseason, the Heat will need to defeat the Wizards and hope for either a Pacers or Bulls loss Wednesday — Indiana hosts Atlanta and Chicago hosts Brooklyn.

If the Heat win Wednesday and the Bulls and Pacers both lose, the Heat will be the seventh seed. In this scenario, the Heat would be tied with the Pacers at 41-41 and Miami would be considered ahead because it owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over Indiana. Chicago would miss the playoffs.

If the Heat win and only one loses, Miami will get in as the eighth seed.

“It’s the tough road for this group,” Spoelstra said. “That’s the way it’s been all year. It depends on which team you ask, we think it’s meant to be. But we have to take care of business. We’ve already developed this habit just focusing on us. So, we’ll go back to our caves, hang out and wait for the next battle on Wednesday.”

The Heat aren’t just chasing a spot in the playoffs, they are also chasing history after digging themselves out of an 11-30 hole. Miami held the NBA’s second-worst record after falling to the Bucks on Jan. 13 and went on to win 24 of its next 30 games to make an incredible run back into the playoff race.

The Heat would become the first-ever team to make the playoffs after finding itself 19 games under .500 (11-30) at the midway point of that same season.

Miami would also become just the fourth team in NBA history (since the eight-team playoff format began in 1983-84) to make the postseason after being at least 19 games under .500 at any point that season. The other teams to do it are the 1987-88 Spurs, 1985-86 Bulls and 1984-85 Cavaliers.

After 81 games, the Heat’s fate now comes down to the final day of the regular season.

“Win or go home,” Heat guard Josh Richardson said of Wednesday’s game. “I don’t know how it works, but we might win and have to go home. We just have to go out and give everything. That’s the only way we know how to do it.”

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