Heat can still avoid play-in. What must happen?
How can Miami, currently a game out of the No. 6 seed, avoid the play-in?
The Miami Heat have been a far cry from a season ago, when they cruised to the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference and were one Jimmy Butler pull-up triple away from their second NBA Finals appearance in three seasons.
This year has been a different story. Miami’s not only competed with the rest of the league, but themselves. They’ve dealt with injuries, but even at full health, they’ve undergone many shooting struggles coupled with defensive inconsistencies that have plagued their leaguewide standing.
For all but two of the last 53 days, Miami’s misfortunes have confined them to the play-in race as the No. 7 seed in the East.
With three games left in the 2022-23 regular season, can Miami avoid the play in? If so, what would need to happen? Let’s talk about it below!
What is the play-in?
The play-in tournament, implemented as part of the 2019-20 season playoffs in lieu of the infamous “Bubble Playoffs”, but amended and fully ratified for 2020-21 and beyond, is a format to determine the No. 7 and 8 seeds in both the East and Western Conferences.
In 2019-20, the rule was that if the No. 8 and 9 seeds in each conference were within four games of each other, the two seeds would play in a play-in game for the No. 8 spot. If the No. 8 seed won the first game, then they would earn the No. 8 seed for the playoffs; the No. 9 seed would have to win two games in order to advance.
Now, the top-six seeds in each conference earn automatic bids.
Thus, the play-in is played between the squads that finish between the No. 7 and 10 seeds in the regular season. The 7th/8th will play one game, while the 9th/10th play another; the winner of the 7v8 ends as the No. 7 seed, while the loser plays the winner of 9v10 for the No. 8 seed.
Where is the Heat positioned?
Let’s take a look at the current standings:
New York Knicks, 46-33
Brooklyn Nets, 43-36
Miami Heat, 42-37
Atlanta Hawks, 40-39
Toronto Raptors, 40-39
Chicago Bulls, 38-41
With three games left, the Heat cannot finish higher than a No. 6 seed — which was decided Saturday with the Knicks’ victory over the Washington Wizards on Sunday.
Miami is in a two-team race with the Nets for the sixth-and-final non-play-in spot, with the Hawks, Raptors and Bulls ineligible to overtake Brooklyn. The No. 6 seed will likely face the Philadelphia 76ers in the first-round, while the No. 7/8 seeds will face the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks, respectively.
So, what needs to happen to earn a top-six seed?
At worst, Miami would need to win at least two of their final three games.
Their final three games will be against the Sixers, Wizards and Orlando Magic, so it’s a manageable three-game slate.
If Miami goes 2-1, the Nets — who, despite being one game ahead of the Heat, own the head-to-head tiebreaker — would have to lose all three of their games.
The Nets also have a soft schedule, closing against Detroit, Orlando and Philadelphia, who will likely be resting players by then with the three-seed all but locked up. Detroit has lost 21 of its last 22 games; Orlando’s won five of their last eight games, but have struggled on the road.
Thus, it’s unlikely Brooklyn loses all three of those games. The Heat would have to go undefeated coupled with Brooklyn going 1-2 or worse for Miami to climb into that No. 6 spot.
If Miami goes 1-2, they would not be able to finish higher the 7th seed. It also puts themselves in danger of losing the homecourt for the play-in if they drop at least two of their final three games, should Toronto — who owns the tiebreaker over the Heat — go 3-0 against Boston (who they play twice) and Milwaukee.
To lose the No. 7 seed to Atlanta, Miami would have winless over their final three-game stretch while Atlanta must go 3-0 over Washington, Philadelphia and Boston. Miami owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over Atlanta.
Assuming the Hawks lose to Washington on Thursday or the Heat win any of their final three games, they would also own the tiebreaker in the event of a three-way tiebreaker, since they would the Southeast division leader.
All in all, while it’s likely the Heat make the play-in, it’s not impossible to make it out — they just need help elsewhere. Ultimately, they need to win games — they haven’t won five straight all season, but have won four of five on several occasions — while hoping Brooklyn wanes against subpar competition.
If not, buckle your seatbelts for the middle of next week — because you’re going to need it.
Its "luck" if they get that 6th. But Heat "deserve" to be in 7th (or even 8th) for some or a lot of poorly played games. Hope we get to second round. And if we did id be happy if we get at least 2 wins
Pick it up end of season.lol