What we had been discussing about Miami's potential playoff positioning is now official. Thanks to the Heat taking care of the Atlanta Hawks last night combined with Boston losing to the Wizards in O.T, Miami has now locked up sole possession of 2nd place in the Eastern Conference. That also means that Miami will be playing against the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1st round of the playoffs as Philly locked up the 7 seed by losing to Orlando at home.
The Hawks will get to face those Orlando Magic in the opening round of the playoffs, with the winner of that series moving on to probably face Chicago in the 2nd round unless the Indiana Pacers can pull off one hell of an upset over the Bulls. Atlanta is pretty much backing in to the playoffs, now having lost 5 consecutive games after tonight's loss to Miami.
The Heat we're pretty much in control of this game from the beginning, using a 10-2 run in the opening quarter to give themselves a little cushion. Miami would continue to build throughout the half, and it was the Big 3 that did a ton of damage in a 2nd quarter that saw the Heat expand their lead to a 16-point halftime advantage.
D-Wade, LeBron and Chris Bosh combined to score 29 of Miami's 34 points in the 2nd quarter, then came out and scored 10 of the Heat's first 12 in the 3rd. Unfortunately, there seemed to be slight lack of intensity coming from the Miami side during the 2nd half. Their defense kept things looking alright during the 3rd when they scored just 17 points but gave up only 21. Things wouldn't be as pretty in the final 12 minutes though.
Atlanta was suddenly scoring from all areas and as we all know, when Miami's D struggles so does the rest of their game. The Hawks outscored the Heat 22-9 over the first 8½ minutes of the 4th quarter to come all the way back from a 20-point deficit to tie the game at 88. Thankfully, Miami then turned the D switch back on and shut down the Hawks. Their offense would show up as well, but from a somewhat unlikely source.
After Atlanta tied the game, it was James Jones who came off the bench and had an immediate comeback. He drilled a triple on the Heat's first offensive possession, and was fouled in the process, turning it into a 4-point play. Dwyane Wade then blocked back-to-back layup attempts on the other end, which led to another James Jones 3-pointer, a momentum busting and confidence killing 7-point swing that all but ended the game for Atlanta.
Just like the last game against Boston, this one also came with his heated moments. Zydrunas Ilgauskas was ejected after he threw the ball, pretty hard actually, right into the back of Zaza Pachulia. Apparently Zaza had been playing a bit rough with Z under the basket and the big Z-ster took exception. Nothing more came from the play, other then the technical free throw which at the time was big, tying the game at 88, but as we know it was all Miami from then on out.
- LeBron James had a big night, his first in a few games, finishing with 34 points, 10 rebounds, 7 assists and 3 steals. He was also 12-of-14 from the foul line.
- The loss was a season-high 5th straight for Atlanta.
- Another big rebounding night for Joel Anthony, grabbing 8. He now has 18 in his last 2 games and 32 in his last 4.
- Chris Bosh hasn't been putting up monster numbers since his big game against Charlotte, but they have been solid. In his last two games, he's scored 28 points on 12-of-18 shooting with 17 rebounds.
- D-Wade had 21 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists but got to the foul line just 3 times. Since going 15-of-16 against Charlotte, Wade has taken just 9 free throws in his last two games...though he has made all 9 of them.
- Mike Miller was out there despite suffering a sprained left thumb against Boston on Sunday. He finished with 0 points and missed both shots he took.
- It was nice to see Mario Chalmers dish out 5 assists in his 17 minutes. He added 3 points on 1-of-2 shooting (both from downtown).
Miami wraps up the regular season on Wednesday night in Toronto. We'll see if Erik Spoelstra decides to rest any of his players in preparation for the playoffs, which will begin this weekend. Game 1 against Philadelphia will be at the AAA either Saturday or Sunday, but from what I'm hearing it will probably be Sunday at 3:30. Key word ‘probably'.