Some Heat notes on a Monday:
With the NBA taking Monday off out of deference to the men’s NCAA championship game, there won’t be scoreboard watching among teams jockeying for playoff positioning.
But as Miami battles with Washington and Milwaukee for sixth, seventh and eighth in the Eastern Conference, a few things to keep in mind, with the Heat (41-36) currently holding the seventh spot ahead of No. 8 Milwaukee (41-36) and one game behind No. 6 Washington (42-35):
• The Heat – which needs only one win or one Detroit loss to clinch a playoff spot - holds the tiebreaker with the Bucks by virtue of Miami winning the season series.
• Though the Heat and Wizards split their season series, Miami would clinch a two-team tiebreaker against Washington if Miami beats Atlanta on both Tuesday at AmericanAirlines Arena and Wednesday night in Georgia.
Here’s why: After head-to-head record, the next step used to break a two-team tiebreaker for teams in the same division is division record. If the Heat sweeps the home and home with the Hawks, its final division record would be 11-5 – which would be assured of being better than Washington’s. The Wizards are 8-6 in the division.
If the Heat splits its games with the Hawks, it’s still very possible Miami could win a tiebreaker with Washington. The Heat has a division record of 9-5 entering those two Hawks games.
• The Wizards have a tough remaining schedule: at Houston, at Cleveland, home to Atlanta and Boston and at Orlando.
• Besides the two Hawks games, Miami plays at New York and hosts Oklahoma City and Toronto.
• The Bucks have home games left against the Celtics, Nets and Magic and road games at the Knicks and 76ers.
• The conventional wisdom is that finishing seventh would be more appealing than finishing sixth or eighth, based on the presumption that a short-handed Boston team would finish second and thus play the team seeded seventh.
But the Celtics are only two games behind the Raptors for the No. 1 seed and the teams meet on Wednesday in Toronto.
What’s more, Boston is 12-4 without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward this season. The Celtics have said Hayward is out for the season and Irving is expected to miss the first round of the playoffs after a recent knee procedure.
• The conventional wisdom also had been to avoid the sixth seed because it likely would mean a first-round matchup with third-seeded Cleveland.
But the 47-30 Cavaliers have only a half-game lead on the fourth seeded Philadelphia 76ers, who are 46-30 after winning 10 in a row. Indiana, at 46-31, is in fifth, one game behind Cleveland.
The Heat is five games behind No. 5 Indiana with five to play.
• Classy: Though Chris Bosh hasn’t been around the Heat for two years, he still checks in regularly with Josh Richardson and Justise Winslow, offering guidance and more.
“Sometimes we’ll talk every day for like a week or so,” Richardson said, noting the conversations are about basketball and life. “He’s a superstar, but he doesn’t act like it.”
Bosh hasn’t ruled out a comeback.
• Kelly Olynyk needs to play only 22 more minutes this season to reach 1700, which would give him a $1 million bonus on top of his $10.6 million salary this season in the first year of a four-year contract.
Olynyk is averaging 23.6 minutes this season.
• Before Brooklyn beat the Heat for the third time this season, Nets coach Kenny Atkinson revealed that his organization is using the Heat as a model of sorts in its development program.
“They are a team that we imitate,” he said. “That’s what we hold onto right now. From Erik [Spoelstra] to Pat Riley, they’ve been doing it for a long time.”
What specifically does he like to take from the Heat?
“I read all the conditioning articles [about the Heat’s players] and I send them to our strength guy [and say] we better [do this],” Atkinson said. “When you’re in great condition, you play well. That’s part of what we’re doing. The toughness, the style, the type of athlete that is produced here is amazing. Even guys that come from other programs turn into gritty, aggressive athletes.”
Heat radio analyst John Crotty was standing nearby during my conversation with Atkinson, and the Nets coach cracked: “I would love to take John Crotty out to dinner and figure out what they’re putting in the meals here.”
Here’s my Monday post on a well-regarded quarterback the Dolphins are bringing to team headquarters.