Available 7 Days/Week       MON - FRI  8am - 7pm       SAT - SUN  10am – 6pm
Call us (754) 701-3300
Apply Now

Heat fall closer to play-in reality after 117-115 stumble in Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS — To review how the NBA play-in tournament works …

No, this was not the result the Miami Heat needed or even could endure, Sunday night’s 117-115 loss to the Indiana Pacers at Gainbridge Fieldhouse, making it likely that they will have to attempt to earn their way into the playoffs through the treacherous play-in round, where a pair of losses would end their season.

Granted, that would be the same path the Heat took last season in advancing to the NBA Finals, but that was when the Heat played both their play-in games at Kaseya Center, after finishing in seventh place in the East.

Now, with Sunday’s loss, there is the increasing chance of an eighth-place finish, which would put the Heat on the road for their play-in opener, potentially against the 76ers and Joel Embiid in Philadelphia or possibly back in Indiana against these Pacers.

“We’ve never made it easy on ourselves,” forward Jimmy Butler said. “So why make it easy now?”

Unable to hit a shot early and unable to contain the Pacers’ high-octane offense throughout, the Heat’s deficit reached the 20s by the midpoint of the second period.

“They were definitely the assertive ones, the ones that were playing on their terms in the first half, and that certainly got us in a hole,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “In the first half they basically were getting everything.”

Save for a late push, it was a mostly flat performance on a night when a victory would have exponentially improved the Heat’s chances of at least a sixth-place finish and direct path to the best-of-seven opening round of the playoffs.

While Butler came to play, closing with 27 points, the Heat’s shooters did not, with the Heat opening 1 of 14 on 3-pointers. The Heat also got 20 points and 12 rebounds from center Bam Adebayo, 21 points from Tyler Herro, 20 from Caleb Martin and 18 from forward Nikola Jovic.

The Pacers were led by 22 points from reserved guard T.J. McConnell and 22 points and 18 rebounds from Myles Turner.

Five Degrees of Heat from Sunday night’s game:

1. Playoff race: With the loss, the Heat dropped to 43-35, while the victory lifted the Pacers to 45-34. In addition, the victory clinched the season-series tiebreaker 2-1 for the Pacers, and also clinched a potential three-way tiebreaker for the Pacers with the Heat and Philadelphia 76ers.

Even if the Heat win their four remaining regular-season games, Indiana still would finish ahead by going 2-1 in their final three regular-season games. Should the Heat go 3-1, Indiana merely would have to close 1-2 to finish ahead.

The Heat’s remaining games are Tuesday night at the Atlanta Hawks, Wednesday night at home against the Dallas Mavericks, and then a pair of home games to close out the season against the Toronto Raptors, on Friday and Sunday at Kaseya Center. Of those opponents, only the Mavericks have a winning record.

The Pacers close their schedule Tuesday at the Raptors, Friday night at the Cleveland Cavaliers and next Sunday at home against the Hawks.

The teams at Nos. 7-8 meet in a game to determine the No. 7 playoff seed and the right to face the No. 2 seed in the opening round.

The loser of the Nos. 7-8 game then hosts the winner of the Nos. 9-10 game (Chicago Bulls-Hawks) for the right to face the No. 1-seeded Boston Celtics in the opening round, with the loser of that game out of the playoffs and in the draft lottery.

The play-in round begins April 16, two days after the close of the regular season. The playoffs open April 20.

“You want to play games with meaning,” Spoelstra said. “When you say games with meaning, that means there’s also games with consequences.

“The discipline is to rally around each other, focus on the task at hand.”

2. Closing time: The Pacers led 38-24 after the first period and 63-46 at halftime, when the Heat stood 2 of 16 on 3-pointers. The Pacers shot .556 from the field in the first half.

“We just started off bad as a whole.” Butler said.

“That cannot happen,” Adebayo said.

The Heat got within eight late in the third period, before the Pacers took a 91-78 lead into the fourth.

Then, with 5:53 to play, Heat forward Nikola Jovic drew a three-shot foul at the expiration of the shot clock, making all three attempts to get the Heat within 99-92. A Jovic 3-pointer drew the Heat within 103-97 on the way to the Heat making it a 103-101 game with 3:21 to play.

Later, with 23 seconds left, Herro drew a three-shot foul with the Heat down 113-108, making all three attempts to make it 113-111.

Turner then was fouled with 17.1 seconds to play, making both. But Herro responded with a 3-pointer with 11.4 seconds left to make it a 115-114 game.

A pair of Aaron Nesmith free throws put Indiana up 117-114, with the Heat then calling their final timeout.

The Pacers then intentionally fouled Herro with 3.6 seconds left. He made the first free throw to make it 117-115. But the Heat then were called for a lane violation on an intentional miss, effectively ending it.

“We gave ourselves a chance.,” Herro.

The lane violation was cited by Kevin Love on the play-by-play stats transcript, but it appeared it was called on Herro.

“I didn’t think it was a lane violation, at all,” he said.

3. Butler attacks: Butler stood with 13 points at halftime, at 4 of 8 from the field and 5 of 5 from the line. His teammates attempted only four free throws in the half.

Butler went over the 20-point mark with 4:59 to play, a jumper that drew the Heat within 77-68. He went into the fourth with 21 points, at 8 of 8 from the line at that stage, on the bench to start that final period.

Butler then returned with 8:14 left and the Heat down 95-85, with the Pacers smothering him in the paint, essentially daring any other Heat players to beat them.

Butler said he is not obsessing about the standings.

“If we end up in the play-in,” he said, “we end up in the play-in.”

4. Herro ball: Herro again played off the bench in his second game back after missing 20 due to a foot issue. He entered for Terry Rozier with 5:42 left in the opening period.

The Heat opened 0 for 10 on 3-pointers until Herro ended the drought with a conversion with 8:15 left in the second period.

Herro played 25:48 in Friday’s return in the victory over the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center.

Spoelstra said pregame there was not necessarily a minutes restriction on Herro, after returning Friday following a 20-game absence.

“It’s not like that kind of monitoring,” Spoelstra said of Herro’s right foot. “But it is a communication in monitoring between me, him and the training staff. He came out of (Friday’s) game very good.”

Herro scored 14 points in the fourth quarter.

“I’m happy for him,” Butler said. “But a little too late, obviously.”

Spoelstra called the night a net gain for Herro, who played 31:05, including all of the fourth quarter.

“We need his skill level. There’s no doubt about it,” Spoelstra said. “It’s a timely boost right now.

“It’s good to see him moving around and looking like himself.”

5. Rozier ailing: Rozier showed up on the Heat’s injury report earlier Sunday, listed as questionable due to neck stiffness, having taken several blows in recent games that left him prone on the court.

He nonetheless was in the starting lineup, along with Butler, Adebayo, Duncan Robinson and Nikola Jovic.

Rozier entered averaging 23.6 points on .494 percent from the field and .571 on 3-pointers over the previous five games.

Clearly not himself, Rozier closed with four points on 2-of-7 shooting in 22 minutes, a spectator at the finish.

“I should not have went today.” Rozier said of his performance. “I shouldn’t have played.”

Rozier said he said his neck went out while traveling or sleeping.

“I never felt like that,” he said.

Spoelstra said no apologies needed.

“We just appreciate him giving whatever it is,” Spoelstra said. “I just appreciate him being out there.”

#fortlauderdale, #fortlauderdalemortgage, #fortlauderdalemortgagelender, #fortlauderdalemortgagerates #fortlauderdalemortgagebroker