For the 20th time in the 30-year history of the franchise, the Miami Heat is playoff bound.
In a game that was far more difficult than it needed to be against a Hawks team that entered 22-55, the Heat clinched a postseason bid on Tuesday by beating Atlanta, 101-98, at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Down eight with 2:50 left in the game, the Heat unleashed an 11-0 run and rallied behind clutch work from Hassan Whiteside (18 points, 12 rebounds, three blocks), James Johnson (10 points, six assists), Tyler Johnson (12 points) and Goran Dragic (22 points).
Two days after drawing a fine for complaining about his minutes,Whiteside played down the stretch and played well, with a tip-in to put the Heat ahead for good with 1:02 left. Josh Richardson sealed it by blocking Damion Lee’s shot with 1.3 seconds left and John Collins’ shot at the buzzer.
This marks the Heat’s eighth playoff appearances in 10 seasons under Erik Spoelstra. Only the Spurs, Celtics and Hawks have been to postseason more in the past decade than Miami, with nine appearances for each of those three teams.
This also marks the Heat’s 18th playoff appearance in 23 seasons since Pat Riley joined the franchise from the New York Knicks. Only the San Antonio Spurs have made more playoff appearances during that span.
It also is the Heat’s second playoff berth in four seasons since LeBron James left for Cleveland, with those appearances coming in years two and four of the post-LeBron era. In fact, the Heat hasn’t missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons since 2001-02 and 2002-03.