The Miami Heat is going to need some help from the Brooklyn Nets and Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday to get into the playoffs and it’s likely going to have to come from some players you’ve probably never heard of.
While the Heat (40-41) is in need of a victory over the Washington Wizards (49-32) as well as a win either by the the Nets (20-61) over the Bulls (40-41) or the Hawks (42-38) over the Indiana Pacers (41-40) to make the playoffs, chances of either of the last two happening are becoming slimmer by the second.
First off, the Hawks locked up the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference and left themselves absolutely no motivation at all to play any of their starters on the second night of a back-to-back against the Pacers with a victory over the Kemba Walker-less Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday night at home.
Brooklyn, meanwhile, already announced on its Twitter account Tuesday night the team will sit six players against the Bulls including leading scorer Brook Lopez (the twin brother of Chicago center Robin Lopez), starting point guard Jeremy Lin and key reserve Trevor Booker.
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That leaves the Heat rooting for Nets rookie Caris Levert, second-year starter Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and veteran journeyman Randy Foye to try and lead the charge against Dwyane Wade, Jimmy Butler and the Bulls.
The Hawks have yet to announce who will be sitting out to rest versus the Pacers on Wednesday in a game which could mean absolutely nothing to them.
▪ If the Heat wins Wednesday, but gets no help from the Hawks or Nets, Miami would still become the first team in NBA history to rally from 19 games under and finish .500 or better. No team has rallied from more than 12 games under .500 to finish at least .500 or better in a season prior to this season.
Could that be something Heat players still hold their heads high about?
“That’s all we can do,” Tyler Johnson said. “You can only control what you can control. We understand what we were able to do the second half of the season when people were kicking dirt on us. That’s the only way you can go out and finish the season with a win and we need a win to have an opportunity to get into the playoffs. We can’t control what other people do.”
Would getting to .500 mean anything to Hassan Whiteside?
“I guess because of the history, but we want more than that,” he said Tuesday. “Anytime you can make history, that shows your heart, that shows guys fought through a lot – the early injuries – and battled their way back in the second half of the year.”
With a win Wednesday, the Heat would flip it’s first half record of 11-30 to 30-11 over the second half of the season.
Since Jan. 14, the midway point of the season for Miami, the only team with a better winning percentage has been the Golden State Warriors (32-9).
Will what the Heat has accomplished over the second half of this season push team president Pat Riley into spending the bulk of the team’s $38 million in available cap space this coming summer to keep rotation players like Dion Waiters, James Johnson, Luke Babbitt and Willie Reed? That’s not a conversation Spoelstra said he’s had with Riley yet.
“Let’s keep this team together for tomorrow,” Spoelstra said Tuesday. “My thought process is we’ve got Game 7 tomorrow.”
Would Goran Dragic and Whiteside, two players under contract with Miami for the next three seasons, walk into Riley’s office and talk to him about keeping the core of this team together beyond this season?
“First of all, I’m a basketball player,” Dragic said. “I don’t make those kind of decisions. Pat, he knows his job really well.
“Of course, we would like to stay together. You always have that doubt in your head – what would happen if we started playing [better] sooner or didn’t have so many injuries. This is part of sports, part of basketball. We’ll see what’s going to happen [this summer].”
Dragic has repeatedly complimented Waiters and said how much he enjoys playing with him. He’s been equally effusive of his praise for James Johnson.
Whiteside, meanwhile, said he would like to see what the team could do with Waiters healthy for a full season. Waiters has missed 12 games in a row because of a sprained left ankle and missed another 20 with a groin injury the first half of the season.
“Obviously Pat didn’t trade any of us,” Whiteside said. “He wanted to see what this team can do.”
“I think how we were in the second half of the season with Dion, we kind of mixed better as a team. We knew each other a lot better and we knew each other’s strengths a lot better. We know we can talk to each other eye to eye and face to face.”