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Miami Heat’s magic number to clinch playoff berth down to 6 after Detroit Pistons’ loss

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First objective for Miami remains to reach the playoffs, and then let the seedings take care of themselves.

NBA: Miami Heat at Los Angeles Lakers Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Right now the Miami Heat controls its own destiny in the playoff chase by winning six games, even if the Detroit Pistons don’t lose another game, to earn a berth for the NBA Playoffs.

Tanking is out of the question since the Heat lost their top-7 protected draft pick this summer a while ago, and can’t finish any lower than 22nd place in the NBA.

Have the Miami Heat become comfortable?

The Heat shouldn’t suffer the same fate as the University of Virginia Cavaliers did in the NCAA Tournament by disrespecting their opponent in any single game, and becoming comfortable under any circumstances.

“It’s a dogfight,” [James] Johnson said. “It’s been like that the whole time but I think we’re comfortable in that situation. A lot of these clutch games, close games are just preparing us for what’s to come.”

Next lies the tough Denver Nuggets, who will probably come into Miami double-teaming and trapping Goran Dragic after his two 30-point games.

Double-teaming Dragic leaves somebody else on the Heat unguarded for open looks, but so far this season nobody else on the team has scored 30+ points in a game more than once.

Heat have few reliable 20+ point per game scorers besides Dragic

Even guys netting 20+ points per game have been hard to come by for the Heat (number of games with 20+ points):

  1. Goran Dragic 26
  2. Hassan Whiteside 11
  3. Wayne Ellington 10
  4. Josh Richardson 9
  5. Tyler Johnson 7
  6. James Johnson 6
  7. Kelly Olynyk 4
  8. Dwyane Wade 3
  9. Justise Winslow 0
  10. Bam Adebayo 0
  11. Rodney McGruder 0

If the Nuggets adopt the “anybody but Dragic” game plan on Monday, the Heat will need to get more than Richardson’s four points, Ellington’s four points, Tyler Johnson’s six points, or Winslow’s two points against the Los Angeles Lakers, to make up for some of Dragic’s 30 points.

McGruder is one of the few Heat players who can create his own shot and leads the team in ESPN’s Shooting Efficiency stat (Adjusted Field Goal %) at 60%, but needs help with coverage on defense.

Six wins clinch a playoff spot regardless of what the Pistons or Charlotte Hornets (five wins to clinch) do, but anything can happen in any given game on the path to the NBA Playoffs: just ask the University of Virginia players if they are comfortable on their soft couches as they watch the remainder of the NCAA Tournament from home.