Miami Heat

The playoff spot is locked, but the Heat still has work to do in final four games

Miami Heat players Wayne Ellington (2) and Kelly Olynyk (9) help up Josh Richardson (0) during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Atlanta Hawks at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on April 3, 2018.
Miami Heat players Wayne Ellington (2) and Kelly Olynyk (9) help up Josh Richardson (0) during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Atlanta Hawks at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on April 3, 2018. dvarela@miamiherald.com

Welcome to Bulletin Board, the Miami Herald’s weekday roundup covering everything in the South Florida sports scene. A lot to talk about today. Let’s get right to it.

Playoff-bound Heat

It seemed inevitable for a while, but now it’s set in stone: The Miami Heat has locked up its spot in the 2018 NBA Playoffs.

The berth-clinching win: A 101-98 decision over the Atlanta Hawks at AmericanAirlines Arena on Tuesday that almost didn’t end in Miami’s favor.

The Heat trailed by eight points with 2:50 left to play before rattling off an 11-0 run to close out the game. Goran Dragic led the Heat with 22 points, while Hassan Whiteside (18 points, 12 rebounds, 3 blocks), James Johnson (10 points, six assists) and Tyler Johnson (12 points) all played significant roles as well.

With a playoff spot now guaranteed, Miami’s final four regular-season games will play a factor in determining the team’s seeding for the playoffs. Heading into Wednesday, the Heat holds the No. 6 seed and would face the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the playoffs. A full breakdown of the playoff scenarios and postgame reaction to clinching a spot in the playoffs can be found here.

The Heat travels to Atlanta for a second game against the Hawks in as many days. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m.

Playoff pushing Panthers

The Florida Panthers are playing with their backs against the wall during the final week of the regular season as the hunt for a playoff spot comes to an end.

And while their chances of sneaking into the playoffs look bleak, the Panthers are not out of contention just yet after pulling out a 2-1 win over Nashville on Tuesday. Colton Sceviour, who was moved to the top line Tuesday, scored the game-deciding goal early in the third period while Roberto Luongo saved 45 of 46 shots.

Couple that win with the Philadelphia Flyers’ loss on Tuesday, and the Panthers late-season surge for a wild card spot in the Eastern Conference still has some life.

Now, for those playoff scenarios:

Heading into Wednesday, the Panthers (90 points) trail the Flyers (94 points) by four points and the New Jersey Devils (95 points) by five points. However, the Panthers have a game in hand on Philadelphia and New Jersey.

So, if the Panthers can rattle off three consecutive victories — home against Boston, home against Buffalo and on the road against Boston — to close out the year, they would make the playoffs under one of two scenarios:

▪ The Flyers earn two points or fewer in their final two games, which would be accomplished by either losing at least one game in regulation or losing both games in overtime.

▪ The Devils earn no more than one point, which means going winless in the final two games regardless of overtime play.

That’s a lot to ask, but it’s not necessarily an impossible task.

Jose Fernandez case update

New information has been filed in court surrounding the Jose Fernandez boating accident in 2016 that killed him and two others on board.

The attorney for Fernandez’s estate, Ralph Fernandez (no relation), filed a 167-page document in Miami-Dade Circuit Court alleging that the lead investigators at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission erroneously concluded that Fernandez was at fault when his 32-foot Sea Vee, Kaught Looking, crashed into the jetty off Government Cut at about 3 a.m. on Sept. 25, 2016. The crash killed Fernandez, 24, and his two passengers: Emilio Macias, 27, and Eduardo Rivero, 25. The families of Macias and Rivero are suing Fernandez’s estate for $2 million each.

Dolphins continue lining up visits

The names are starting to surface and a better idea of whom the Dolphins are interested in from the 2018 draft class is starting to take shape.

The most recent standouts: Iowa cornerback Josh Jackson and UCLA offensive lineman Kolton Miller. Jackson led the NCAA with eight interceptions and 27 defended passes last season, and Miller played a strong role protecting quarterback and likely top five pick Josh Rosen.

While the Dolphins already have seven roster spots essentially set among offensive linemen, grabbing a low-risk, high-reward lineman during Day 2 or 3 of the NFL Draft will provide quality competition with second-year tackle Eric Smith and second-year guard Isaac Asiata for the final one or two spots on the 53-man roster.

And while the Dolphins’ top four cornerbacks in Xavien Howard, Cordrea Tankersley, Tony Lippett and Bobby McCain are an acceptable group, adding quality depth behind them surely wouldn’t hurt.

More news and notes

Miami Marlins

▪ It was another extra-innings game for the Marlins. This time, a 4-2 loss to the Red Sox.

▪ With starting pitchers coming back from injury, here’s a look at how the rotation could shake up.

Miami Dolphins

▪ How a late-night call changed the Dolphins’ thinking on Mike Pouncey.

▪ The latest NFL Draft spotlight: Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea

Miami Hurricanes

▪ Two weeks into spring practice, the quarterback job is still Malik Rosier’s to lose

▪ A pair of former UM linebackers is still finding ways to make an impact

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