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Miami Heat 96 – New Jersey Nets 84: It's Over Johnny, IT'S OVER!

In one of the more bizarre games I have ever personally witnessed with so much on the line, the Miami Heat outlasted the New Jersey Nets in double overtime 96-84 with the prize of securing the fifth seed and facing off against the Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs this weekend. Amazingly, neither team could reach 100 points even with the additional two extra overtime periods. With Dwyane Wade, Jermaine O’Neal and Udonis Haslem resting for the playoffs one might have assumed that this game was meaningless but playoff seeding that affected the Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks and the Atlanta Hawks were on the line but Erik Spoelstra saw fit to dust off some of his players at the end of the bench to face the NBA’s worst team for the regular season finale. James Jones started in place of Wade, Yakhouba Diawara was finally taken out of deep freeze and inserted in the second overtime only to bank in a three pointer and Shavlik Randolph saw his first action in a Heat uniform since re-signing with the team last week and quickly established himself as a "the token white guy off the bench who is a fan favorite". It was Fan Appreciation Night and I joined them up in the 400 section for the final game of the regular season. After becoming accustomed to sitting in the lower bowl for several games this year, it was a revelation being so high up at the AAA with practically a bird’s eye view of the court and the Heat banners, including the 2006 NBA Championship banner, framing the court from above. Apparently many of the fans didn’t get the memo that Wade wasn’t going to play or that a loss might have been better for the Heat since dropping to the sixth seed meant facing off against the Hawks but more crucially meant avoiding the Cleveland Cavs and facing the Orlando Magic in the second round if the Heat were to advance. Spoelstra’s odd, almost experimental, lineups and substitutions certainly made it seem like winning wasn’t exactly the #1 priority here although he did hold off in inserting D-League recruit Kenny Hansbrouck in what would have been his first NBA minutes. Michael Beasley led the way for the Heat with a confidence-building 25 points and 13 rebounds while Yi Jianlian had 23 points and 15 rebounds for the Nets while also accomplishing the feat of getting his own lay-up blocked by the side of the backboard and consequently tweaking his ankle. Somewhere far in the distance I could have sworn I heard Amad Rashad saying, "The NBA, it’s fan-tastic!" The Heat finished the regular season with 18 wins out of the last 22 games for a final record of 47-35 and come into the Boston Celtics series as healthy as a team that just played 82 games can be. Make sure to read our upcoming playoff preview with a little help from our friends (or enemies?) over at Celtics Hub, our ESPN Truehoop Network partner. I’ll be asked a few tough questions by them as well so make sure to keep an eye on their blog too where they already have an excellent write-up about the Miami Heat. Free your mind from that last game and get ready for the playoffs. Black Is Back!