When Goran Dragic first learned he had been traded to the Heat, he was hopeful about the opportunity to play a leading role in the playoffs for the first time in his career.
Dragic boarded a plane for Miami in mid-February expecting to team up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh for a post-All-Star playoff push. Before that plane landed, Dragic learned that Bosh was in the hospital with an undisclosed medical condition. It was a surreal turn of events for the 28-year-old guard, and one that ultimately contributed to the situation the Heat now finds itself with two games left in the regular season.
After losing nine of its past 12 games — and six of its past seven — the Heat (35-45) is hoping for an unlikely series of events to get it into the postseason.
First, Miami must defeat the Orlando Magic on Monday to keep from being eliminated from the playoff hunt, but even if the Heat wins that game and then knocks off the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday, it still needs a lot of help.
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Not only must the Heat win out, but the Brooklyn Nets must lose their remaining two games. If the Nets defeat the Bulls on Monday, the Heat is out. Brooklyn finishes the season against the Magic on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the Heat also needs help from the Indiana Pacers. The Heat trailed the Pacers by two games after Indiana’s victory on Sunday against the Oklahoma City Thunder, and the Pacers hold a playoff tiebreaker against the Heat in the event both teams finish with identical records.
A victory by the Boston Celtics against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday further decreased the odds of the Heat making the playoffs. The Celtics (38-42) edged closer to the postseason with the victory. The Nets lost Sunday, giving the Heat the smallest amount of hope.
“I mean, it’s still a possibility,” Dragic said. “We’re still not out, so [Sunday] we practiced like we usually do. Everything is possible. It’s basketball. The ball is round, so we’re still not done.
“Hopefully, with some luck, we can do something. But it’s hard because we had our opportunities. It hurts.”
With a remote chance to still make the playoffs, the Heat prepared on Sunday for a must-win game against the Magic.
Still, the Heat’s players were under no illusions that their chances were slim to none.
“It’s tough,” Dragic said. “For me it has been happening the last three years, and it’s always tough because we had a good situation, but we didn’t make it through.”
The Heat is 12-15 since Dragic made his debut with the team on Feb.21 against the New Orleans Pelicans. A few of those losses — large blown leads to Milwaukee (16 points), Detroit (15 points) and Chicago (19 points) — took a greater toll than others.
“It’s always tough to change a team or a team to accept a new player, especially at that point in the season when every game is crucial and you don’t have time to practice and develop that chemistry,” Dragic said. “But I think part of problem was those games that we lost we didn’t play good defense, and we didn’t play good offense.
“When you have those two things, then it’s really tough to win.”
THIS AND THAT
▪ Despite joining a losing team, Dragic said the Heat’s attitude of “never surrender” is “what I love about this team.”
“Hopefully, next year I’m a free agent, but I like this organization and, hopefully, I’m going to stay here and try to have a good season next year,” Dragic said.
▪ Heat forward Luol Deng has a player option to become a free agent after this season, but Sunday he expressed interest in returning to the Heat.
MAGIC AT HEAT
When/Where: 7:30 p.m., AmericanAirlines Arena
TV/Radio: Sun Sports/FM 104.3, AM 790 and WAQI 710AM (Spanish)
Series: Heat leads 57-45.
Of note: Hassan Whiteside (hand laceration) is probable. Henry Walker (sore left elbow) is questionable. Chris Bosh (blood clot), Josh McRoberts (knee meniscus surgery) and Shabazz Napier (sports hernia surgery) are out. For the Magic, Devyn Marble (left eye) is out.