Heat Check

Is homecourt advantage in Round 1 realistically out of the Heat’s grasp? Let’s examine

Miami Heat players react after Udonis Haslem blocked Washington Wizards’ forward Kelly Oubre Jr. from scoring in the fourth quarter at AmericanAirlines Arena on Saturday, March 10, 2018.
Miami Heat players react after Udonis Haslem blocked Washington Wizards’ forward Kelly Oubre Jr. from scoring in the fourth quarter at AmericanAirlines Arena on Saturday, March 10, 2018. mocner@miamiherald.com

The Heat’s loss to the red-hot Portland Trail Blazers on Monday night dropped Miami back into eighth place in the Eastern Conference and three games back of Cleveland for fourth place, the final spot for homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

With 14 games remaining for Miami (36-32), it’s looking more and more bleak that the Heat will be able to avoid a tough first round matchup with either No. 1 seeded Toronto (49-17) or No. 2 seeded Boston (46-21).

ESPN’s Basketball Power Index has the Heat on pace to finish 44-38, tied with Milwaukee for the seventh-best record in the East and thus the seventh seed in the conference because Miami owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Bucks. That means ESPN believes the Heat will finish the season 8-6.

Of the bottom six teams in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, the Heat own the second-easiest remaining schedule behind the sixth-seeded Philadelphia 76ers (36-29), whom ESPN projects to finish 47-35 and third in the East, one spot ahead of LeBron James and the Cavs.

With Tuesday’s NBA schedule featuring four of the five teams the Heat is chasing, here is a look at the remaining schedules and breakdowns of the teams fighting for playoff position with the Heat in the East.

Wade suffered a mild hamstring injury in Miami’s 129-102 win over the Washington Wizards on Saturday night at AlericanAirlines Arena.

THE PLAYOFF CHASE

3. Indiana Pacers (39-28). Conference record: 29-16. Home: 23-12. Road: 16-16. Games remaining: 15 (6 home, 9 road, 11 vs. playoff contenders, 1 back-to-back). Series with Heat: Miami leads 2-1 with one game to go (March 25 in Indiana).

Games vs. teams in playoff picture (11): at Sixers (Tuesday), vs. Raptors (Thursday), at Wizards (Saturday), at Pelicans (March 21), vs. Clippers (March 23), vs. Heat (March 25), at Warriors (March 27), at Clippers (April 1), at Nuggets (April 3), vs. Warriors (April 5), at Raptors (April 6).

Notes: The Pacers have the toughest remaining schedule in the conference including a West Coast trip in late March that includes stops at Golden State, the Clippers and Nuggets. There’s also a back-to-back against the Warriors (April 5) and at Toronto (April 6). The season ends with back-to-back games against the Hornets, but not on consecutive days.

4. Cavaliers (38-28). Conference record: 27-14. Home: 22-11. Road: 16-17. Games remaining: 16 (8 home, 8 road, 7 vs. playoff contenders, 2 back-to-backs). Series with Heat: Cleveland lead 2-0 with one game to go (March 27 in Miami).

Games vs. teams in playoff picture (7): at Trail Blazers (Thursday), vs. Bucks (March 19), vs. Raptors (March 21), at Heat (March 27), vs. Pelicans (March 30), vs. Raptors (April 5), vs. 76ers (April 6).

Notes: The Cavaliers’ schedule is the third easiest among the final six in the East.

5. Wizards (38-29). Conference record: 24-18. Home: 19-14. Road: 19-15. Games remaining: 15 (8 home, 7 road, 10 vs. playoff contenders 10, 3 back-to-backs). Series with Heat: Tied at 2.

Miaiu Heat coach Erik Spoelstra talks about the Heat’s loss in overtime to the Wizards and Dwyane Wade’s performance late in the game.

Games vs. teams in playoff picture (10): vs. Timberwolves (Tuesday), at Celtics (Wednesday), vs. Pacers (Saturday), at Spurs (March 21), vs. Nuggets (March 23), vs. Spurs (March 27), at Pistons (March 29), at Rockets (April 3), at Cavs (April 5), vs. Celtics (April 10).

Notes: The Wizards face the second-toughest schedule among the East’s final six playoff teams.

6. Sixers (36-29). Conference record: 22-17. Home: 20-10. Road: 16-19. Games remaining: 17 (11 home, 6 road, 6 vs. playoff contenders, 4 back-to-backs). Series vs. Heat: Split 2-2.

Games vs. teams in playoff picture (6): vs. Pacers (Tuesday), vs. Timberwolves (March 24), vs. Nuggets (March 26), at Pistons (April 4), vs. Cavs (April 6), vs. Bucks (April 11).

Notes: Following Tuesday’s game at home versus Indiana, the Sixers play the lottery-bound Knicks, Nets, Hornets, Grizzlies and Magic before facing another playoff contender. Philadelphia has four back-to-backs left and none of them are particularly challenging: Knicks-Nets, Grizzlies-Magic, Nets-Pistons, Hawks-Bucks.

7. Bucks (36-31). Conference record: 22-21. Home: 21-14. Road 15-17. Games remaining: 15 (6 home, 9 road, 8 vs. playoff contenders 8, 1 back-to-back). Series with the Heat: Miami swept it 3-0.

Games vs. teams in playoff picture (8): at Cavs (March 19), vs. Clippers (March 21), vs. Spurs (March 25), at Clippers (March 27), at Warriors (March 29), at Nuggets (April 1), vs. Celtics (April 3), at Sixers (April 11).

Notes: Milwaukee plays at Orlando and then hosts Atlanta to close out this week. The Bucks have one back-to-back left at Golden State and the Lakers before closing the regular season at Philadelphia on April 11.

8. Heat (36-32). Conference record: 25-18. Home: 20-13. Road: 16-19. Games remaining: 14 (8 home, 6 road, 6 vs. playoff contenders 6, 1 back-to-backs).

Behind 24 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks from Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic’s 17 points and five assists, the Heat (34-30) moved into seventh place in the Eastern Conference by virtue of Milwaukee’s loss at Indiana.

Games vs. teams in playoff picture (6): vs. Nuggets (March 19), at Thunder (March 23), at Pacers (March 25), vs. Cavs (March 27), vs. Thunder (April 9), vs. Raptors (April 11).

Notes: The Heat's only remaining back-to-back is versus the Hawks (April 3-4).

9. Pistons (30-36). Conference record: 19-26. Home: 21-14. Road: 9-22. Games remaining: 16 (6 home, 10 road, 7 vs. playoff contenders, 2 back-to-backs). Series vs. Heat: Split 2-2.

Games vs. teams in playoff picture (7): at Jazz (Tuesday), at Nuggets (Thursday), at Blazers (Saturday), at Rockets (March 22), vs. Wizards (March 29), vs. Sixers (April 4), vs. Raptors (April 9).

Notes: The Pistons open up a six-game West Coast trip Tuesday and face four teams on the trip fighting for playoff position. The back-to-backs are at Sacramento and Phoenix and then versus Memphis and Toronto.

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