via Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE
Monday night after beating the Raptors 93-83 in Miami, the Heat learned that they have passed percentage points ahead of the Pacers for 1st place in the East. Beating Toronto was significant for the Heat. The loss for Toronto means that they are now tied with the Bulls for the 3rd seed in the East. It's not a necessity to avoid Chicago in the 2nd round, but it would be propitious. Chicago is a much more physical team and it would be beneficial to have less fatigue going into the Conference Finals.
Things are looking up for the defending champions having won three straight games after dropping Wednesday night's nail biter to the Pacers. I was impressed with the Heat and was very surprised that we lost the game. We controlled the entire game except for the 1st quarter and the last five minutes of the 4th. Advice for Coach Spo: Put UD on Hibbert! The final regular season showdown between the Pacers and Heat will be next Friday, April 11.
If the Pacers continue to struggle, you could almost pencil in the Heat to the NBA Finals before the playoffs even begin. The Heat have been able to take advantage of the soft schedule lately to rest some key players: Dwyane Wade, Mario Chalmers, and Ray Allen. If the Heat can clinch the East with a win versus the Pacers next Friday, they could give the rotation players a week off before the playoff begin and essentially use the first round to get back in sync.