The Heat will enter Wednesday’s regular season finale against visiting Toronto needing help to move higher than seventh in the Eastern Conference and at risk of falling to eighth.
Of all the scenarios, Miami (43-38) might be best off staying in seventh, because that would mean a first-round matchup against a Boston team missing Gordon Hayward, Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart.
But the Celtics have played well short-handed in recent weeks, and Heat guard Dwyane Wade cautioned against any sentiment of rooting for a Heat-Celtics first round series.
A Heat win against the Raptors and a Milwaukee loss at Philadelphia would move Miami to sixth, meaning a first-round matchup against the 76ers, who have won 15 in a row.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
But if the sixth-seeded Bucks (44-37) win at Philadelphia and Miami beats Toronto, the Heat would stay in seventh.
The Heat also would be seventh if Miami loses to Toronto and Washington (43-38) loses at Orlando.
But the Heat would fall to eighth (and a first-round matchup with the Raptors) if the Wizards win at Orlando and the Heat loses to Toronto.
Washington beat Boston on Tuesday night to keep alive hopes of surpassing the Heat.
The Heat would win any two-team or three-team tiebreaker involving Milwaukee and Washington. If all three finish tied, Miami would be sixth in the East. Miami will open postseason on the road in any scenario.
Philadelphia’s win against Atlanta on Tuesday means the Heat cannot play Cleveland in the first round.
So the Heat’s first-round opponent will be Philadelphia, Boston or Toronto.
The Heat, Milwaukee and Washington games all start at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, with Fox Sports Sun televising the Heat game and ESPN carrying the Bucks at 76ers game.
“Everyone is talking about Boston without Kyrie and Smart,” Wade said. “It’s a big blow [but] that team is still good. They're well coached and got some young guys that can play. Nobody should be trying to put themselves in position to play them. It’s a tough team.”