Miami Heat

Heat faces long odds to make playoffs. Here’s where things stand

The Heat hasn’t been eliminated from playoff contention yet, but faces long odds to make it.

Sunday afternoon’s loss to the Raptors paired with the Hornets’ victory over the Pistons pushed the Heat down to 10th in the Eastern Conference standings. Miami has two regular-season games left to play — Tuesday vs. Philadelphia and Wednesday at Brooklyn.

“We’ll need some help,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “You want to win in the playoffs? Win the next game.”

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The only way for the Heat to still make the playoffs is if it wins both of its games, Detroit loses its two remaining games (Tuesday vs. Memphis and Wednesday at New York) and Charlotte loses one of its two remaining games (Tuesday at Cleveland and Wednesday vs. Orlando).

“Of course we need some help from other teams,” Heat point guard Goran Dragic said. “But as long as there’s a small chance to make the playoffs, we’re going to [go for it].”

After Sunday’s loss, FiveThirtyEight.com’s playoff predictions dropped the Heat’s chances of making the postseason to less than 1 percent. Entering Monday, ESPN’s Basketball Power Index had the Heat with just a 1.3 percent chance of making the playoffs.

No. 10 Miami has the same record as No. 9 Charlotte, but the Hornets hold the tiebreaker over the Heat by virtue of a superior division record. Miami is also one game behind No. 8 Detroit, and 2.5 games behind No. 7 Orlando and No. 6 Brooklyn.

With Miami falling to Toronto on Sunday, the Heat could have been eliminated from the playoff race with a Detroit win over Charlotte and a Brooklyn win over Indiana. But the Hornets defeated the Pistons 104-91 to keep Miami’s slim playoff hopes alive, while the Nets beat the Pacers 108-96.

Brooklyn clinched a playoff spot with its victory over Indiana, and Orlando clinched a playoff berth and the Southeast Division with Sunday’s win over Boston. With the Nets and Magic in, it leaves the Heat, Hornets and Pistons competing for the one remaining open Eastern Conference playoff spot.

The Heat is in danger of missing the playoffs for the third time in the past five seasons and the 11th time in the franchise’s 31 seasons of existence.

While it would be the third time in a five-year span the Heat has missed the postseason, it would be just the sixth time since Pat Riley joined the organization 24 seasons ago that it hasn’t qualified for the playoffs. It would also mark the third time the Heat has missed the playoffs during Spoelstra’s 11-season tenure as head coach.

If the Heat doesn’t make the playoffs, it will be part of the draft lottery. Miami will likely close with either the No. 12, No. 13 or No. 14 lottery seed depending on its final record.

The No. 14 seed has a 0.5 percent chance for the No. 1 overall pick and a 2.4 percent chance for a top-four pick. The No. 13 seed has a 1 percent chance for the No. 1 pick and a 4.8 percent chance for a top-four pick. And the No. 12 seed has a 1.5 percent chance for the No. 1 pick and a 7.1 percent chance for a top-four pick.

With the Heat now a clear underdog to make the playoffs, there’s a good chance the two remaining regular-season games will be the final two games of Dwyane Wade’s NBA career. The Heat will honor Wade with a pregame ceremony Tuesday, with it possibly marking his final game at AmericanAirlines Arena before he retires at the end of the season.

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Anthony Chiang covers the Miami Heat for the Miami Herald. He attended the University of Florida and was born and raised in Miami.
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