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Winderman’s view: Heat down and now likely out of clear playoff path

INDIANAPOLIS — Observations and other notes of interest from Sunday night’s 117-115 loss to the Indiana Pacers:

– So a play-in opener against Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey and the 76ers?

– Or a play-in opener against Tyrese Haliburton, Heat killer T.J. McConnell and the Pacers?

– Either possibly on the road.

– No, Sunday did not produce the type of clarity the Heat wanted and needed.

– Even while fighting the good fight to the finish.

– Instead, Erik Spoelstra’s unit is looking like a team that even might require a second play-in game to make the playoffs.

– Which would be either against DeMar DeRozan and the Bulls.

– Or against Dejounte Murray and the Hawks.

– Even more significant, the play-in, if again escaped, would mean no five-day break heading into the playoffs.

– Hardly what an older roster needs.

– Yes, perhaps Jimmy Butler can conjure the magic again.

– As he almost did Sunday.

– Perhaps Tyler Herro can regain form.

– As he began to Sunday.

– But remember, it took Max Strus to get the Heat out of last season’s play-in.

– And he’s not here anymore.

– The possibility of a top-six seed and direct entry to the playoffs still remains.

– But now it is a long shot.

– A long long shot based on the closing schedules of the Pacers and 76ers.

– It was there for the taking Sunday.

– And the Heat couldn’t take it.

– Coming up heartbreakingly short.

– Although he was listed as questionable an hour before tipoff due to a neck strain, Terry Rozier was back in the Heat lineup, again starting alongside Butler, Bam Adebayo, Nikola Jovic, and Duncan Robinson.

– That lineup is now 7-7.

– But this certainly was a stride forward for Jovic.

– The Pacers opened with Tyrese Haliburton, Andrew Nembhard, Aaron Nesmith, Pascal Siakam, Myles Turner.

– Caleb Martin and Herro entered together in Heat’s first substitution.

– Kevin Love followed.

– With Haywood Highsmith then making it nine deep.

– For the second consecutive game the rotation reached 10 when Jaime Jaquez Jr. entered at the start of the second period.

– Spoelstra said he did not necessarily sense a big-game outlook at the morning walkthrough.

– “I don’t really try to read like feelings,” he said pregame. “I know our locker room. We have a locker room full of competitors that love these kind of moments.”

– But he also said, “This is why we do what we do, for games that feel like this.”

– Spoelstra said there was no need to attempt to conjure more.

– “Our habits are what they are, at this point of year,” he said.

– It was the first time the Heat played the Pacers since Indiana acquired Siakam.

– “Their roster is different with Siakam,” he said.

– It also was the first time the Heat played the Pacers with Rozier on Miami’s roster.

– Of the notion of the Pacers being an offense-first opponent, Spoelstra said, “They have an underrated toughness to them.”

– Adebayo now has a career-high 40 double-doubles this season.

– Jovic extended his career-best streak of games with at least one 3-pointer to 14.

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