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Tyler Herro’s 33 power Heat to grueling, critical 117-111 2OT victory in Atlanta

ATLANTA – While much changed with the Miami Heat’s playoff outlook with Sunday night’s loss to the Indiana Pacers, the Heat exited that game knowing that victories in their final four games gave them their best shot for direct entry into the NBA playoffs, or, at worst, a guarantee of opening the play-in round at home.

One down – Tuesday night’s 117-111 grueling double-overtime victory over the Atlanta Hawks at State Farm Arena – three to go: Wednesday night against the Dallas Mavericks and then a season-ending pair against the visiting Toronto Raptors on Friday and Sunday.

No, not the most optimal scenario, with the Heat still outside of the top six in the East, with those six seeds advancing directly to the best-of-seven first round of the playoffs.

But now with enough home cooking, the Heat at least can assure being at Kaseya Center for next Tuesday’s start of the play-in round, where one victory in two chances punches a playoff ticket.

With Terry Rozier out due to the neck spasms that first presented themselves Sunday and with Duncan Robinson again sidelined by a back issue, the Heat got 33 points from Tyler Herro, 25 from Jimmy Butler, 23 from Nikola Jovic and 13 from Haywood Highsmith to survive and close out their road schedule at 24-17.

No, not the most optimal way to open the back-to-back set that concludes Wednesday night, but it beat the alternative.

So Herro dug deep and the Heat held on.

Five Degrees of Heat from Tuesday night’s game:

1. Playoff race: The game had meaning beyond the current standings.

Should the Hawks win the Nos. 9-10 play-in game against the Chicago Bulls (that matchup already is locked in), they could stand as a potential Heat opponent in a winner-take-all matchup at the end of the East play-in tournament a week from Friday.

The Hawks won in Miami last year in the first round of the play-in tournament, forcing the Heat into a winner-take-all game against the Bulls that the Heat won.

As for other Tuesday results, the Pacers’ victory in Toronto all but ended the Heat’s pursuit of Indiana, with the 76ers’ victory over the Pistons keeping the heat on the Heat in the race for No. 7 in the East and hosting the play-in opener next Tuesday.

2. Closing time: The Heat led 30-27 at the end of the opening period and 59-47 at halftime, after going up 15 in the second period. The Heat went up 14 early in the third, but with seven turnovers, found themselves in an 80-80 tie going into the fourth.

Regulation ended tied 101-101 when the best the Heat could muster before the fourth-quarter buzzer was an errant 28-foot Herro heave.

The Heat then forced the second overtime with late 3-pointers in the first overtime from Jovic and Highsmith.

Herro then scored the first four points of the second overtime, putting the Heat up 111-107 with 1:50 remaining, with a Highsmith floater making it 113-107. Jovic later provided a security basket for a 115-109 Heat lead.

3. Another twist: In the absences of Robinson and Rozier, the Heat moved to a starting backcourt of Herro and Caleb Martin.

It was Herro’s first start since he limped off the court in the Feb. 23 road victory over the New Orleans Pelicans, missing the next 20 games before Friday night’s return in the road victory over the Houston Rockets.

It was Martin’s first start since the Feb. 26 road victory over the Sacramento Kings, in the first of those 20 games missed by Herro.

The first five was rounded out by Butler, Bam Adebayo and Jovic, the fourth time the Heat started the unit this season, having previously gone 1-2 with that opening quintet.

4. Stepping up: Herro opened 6 of 7 from the field and kept going from there, up to 16 points at halftime.

If there was any doubt about Herro moving back into the starting lineup full-time, this answered any question.

His play off the bounce created switches that freed teammates, adding the type of creativity the team missed in his absence.

5. Another and another: Adebayo drained a pair of first-half 3-pointers, one from the right corner early and then one he banked in from the top of the arc in the second period.

Those conversions gave him the third multi-3 game of his career, with all three coming over the past 11 games.

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