Miami Heat

Standings update: Heat, facing Detroit Tuesday, holds slimmest of leads in playoff race

Heat's Tyler Johnson, left, drives pass Piston's Ish Smith during the Heat-Pistons game New Year’s Day.
Heat's Tyler Johnson, left, drives pass Piston's Ish Smith during the Heat-Pistons game New Year’s Day. cjuste@miamiherald.com

Here’s where the Miami Heat stands ahead of Tuesday’s night’s massive showdown with the Pistons:

In the Eastern Conference’s No. 8 spot, just a half-game ahead of the Dwyane Wade-less Bulls for the East’s final playoff spot with nine games to go.

The Heat (35-38), losers of three of four since Dion Waiters injured his ankle, owns a 1 1/2-game lead over the host Pistons, who are currently the East’s 10th seed. Detroit had the chance to make up ground on Miami and Chicago Monday, but lost to the Knicks 109-95.

More good news for the Heat (who need any it can get): The Pistons, losers of four straight, were without star point guard Reggie Jackson Monday, and will likely miss Tuesday’s game against Miami as well.

Jackson has been dealing with an aching left knee, and the worse Detroit’s odds of reaching the playoffs get, the better the odds of the Pistons shutting him down for the season become.

“We've been thinking about this, actually for a long time,” Pistons president and coach Stan Van Gundy told MLive.com. “He's probably been playing at 80 percent, When you get into this stretch of games in March, where we're playing at, the fatigue is just making it worse.”

Jackson’s health is a big reason why the Heat is 2.5-point road favorites Tuesday, even without Waiters.

Tip off is 7:30 p.m.

Want to do some scoreboard watching Tuesday night? Other games to monitor: Bucks (the East’s sixth seed, two games up on Miami) at Hornets (11th seed, two games back) and Timberwolves at Pacers (seventh seed, 1 1/2 games up).

In the meantime, Herald sportswriter Barry Jackson explores just how much the Heat and point guard Goran Dragic have missed Waiters these last two weeks. (The Heat had eyes on the East’s sixth seed when Waiters was healthy; now Miami needs to finish strong to simply avoid the lottery.)

George Richards, who’s traveling with the Heat, has a dispatch from Detroit on the Heat’s remarkable turnaround this season.

And finally, here’s the complete scoreboard from Monday night’s NBA action.

Adam H. Beasley: 305-376-3565, @AdamHBeasley

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