The Miami HEAT host the Washington Wizards Wednesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Get your tickets now! The HEAT defeated the Wizards 106-103 in their last meeting on April 8. Tip-off is set for 8:00 PM. Television coverage on FOX Sports Sun begins at 7:30 PM. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket.
1: How did Miami pull out the comeback win against Cleveland?
Couper Moorhead: The same way they usually do, by playing hard. The actual details of this game are less important than the fact that they managed to pull out a win, whether or not they had to overcome a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter. But the best run of the game came in the early fourth when Erik Spoelstra opted to use James Johnson at center for what felt like the first time in months. That formation won the HEAT games earlier in the season and it sparked an immediate surge in the fourth. That’s not to say things were easy from there, but it was certainly a more manageable deficit.
Overall, the team just found a way to grind out a win just as they’ve been doing for the last few weeks. It might not look pretty, but looking pretty doesn’t get you anywhere this time of year if you don’t win.
Joe Beguiristain: Despite not having LeBron James or Kyrie Irving, the Cavaliers were quite sharp on the offensive end thanks to the hot shooting of Kevin Love and Deron Williams. Still, Miami stuck with it and fought back from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter to force overtime. While James Johnson and Wayne Ellington were vital in the fourth (the duo combined for 19 points in the period), Josh Richardson and Tyler Johnson were even more impactful.
Richardson led the team with five steals on the night and forced Williams to shoot just 2-of-7 from the field in the fourth quarter and overtime period combined. Not to mention, the 23-year-old also hit a difficult jumper to put the HEAT up 120-117 with 42.3 seconds remaining. T. Johnson, meanwhile, attacked the basket off the pick-and-roll down the stretch and hit four clutch free throws with less than 30 seconds left to seal the deal.
The end result? Another important victory and another team hug when the clock hit zero. This team wants it.
2: Down to the last day of the season, what do Miami’s playoff hopes look like?
Couper: After a month of tracking future schedules and complicated multi-team tiebreakers, there’s nothing complicated about tonight. If the HEAT lose, they’re out. If the HEAT win and both Indiana and Chicago win, they’re out. But if the HEAT win and either Indiana or Chicago loses, then they’re in. Simple as that. They could also get as high as the No. 7 seed if both those teams lose, but the most important thing tonight is simply extending the season.
So how do things look for the other teams? The Bulls have Brooklyn at home. The good news there is that the Nets have been playing pretty well lately and just beat the Bulls last week. The bad news is that the Nets are resting a bunch of players and only have seven road wins all season and just two over playoff teams. The Pacers are also at home, hosting the Hawks. Now, Atlanta clinched the No. 5 seed with a win over Charlotte on Tuesday and might elect to rest players given that they’ll be on a back-to-back too. But that’s where the HEAT are right now, relying on help from the Hawks or the Nets.
Joe: Since we’ve been breaking down a bunch of convoluted scenarios for the past few weeks, it’s only fitting that it all comes down to Wednesday night’s regular season finale.
For starters, if the HEAT lose to the Wizards, they’re out regardless of how the Pacers or Bulls fare. On the other side of the coin, if Miami wins, the team isn’t guaranteed to make the postseason. In that scenario, the HEAT still need either Indiana or Chicago to lose in order to clinch a spot.
On Wednesday, the Bulls host the Nets, while the Pacers host the Hawks. Although Brooklyn defeated Chicago on Saturday, the Nets announced on Tuesday that Trevor Booker, Jeremy Lin, Brook Lopez, Quincy Acy, Joe Harris and Sean Kilpatrick are all out for their final game. On paper, that makes things much easier for the Bulls, but you never know. As for Indiana’s matchup, Atlanta could opt to rest its guys too since the Hawks solidified the No. 5 seed with their win over the Hornets on Tuesday night. That said, Atlanta’s approach still remains to be seen. We’ll see how it all plays out.
3: What is Washington’s situation Wednesday night?
Couper: The Wizards are locked into the No. 4 seed no matter what happens tonight. They also know that they’ll be playing Atlanta after the Hawks beat the Hornets Tuesday. In other words, the Wizards have nothing to play for beyond maintaining a rhythm headed into the postseason. Scott Brooks has already said that Ian Mahinmi won’t play and that he’ll likely rest a number of other players, but even those regulars who do play, we surmise, might not see a regular allotment of minutes. The final game of the season, for most teams in this situation, is for giving guys a bit of a break and making sure nobody gets hurt.
Joe: Both John Wall (quad) and Otto Porter Jr. (back) missed Monday night’s game against the Pistons, so you should expect the same if not more to sit out on Wednesday. Case in point: the Wizards called up former University of Miami standout Sheldon McClellan on Tuesday, which means he might get some playing time against the HEAT. As Coup stated above, Washington is already set in the No. 4 seed, so there’s really no need to push guys when a playoff series with the Hawks is right around the corner. Even so, Miami understands that it still has to come out and compete.
INJURY UPDATE: John Wall (rest), Bradley Beal (rest), Markieff Morris (rest) and Ian Mahinmi (calf) are all out for Wednesday night’s game.
April 8-HEAT at Wizards
December 12-Wizards at HEAT
- The HEAT have won three of four and are 40-41.
- The Wizards have won three of four and enter the contest at 49-32.
- Josh Richardson is averaging 15.0 points, 2.8 steals and 1.6 blocks per game on 53.8 percent shooting from downtown in his last five outings.
- Marcin Gortat leads Washington with 10.4 rebounds per contest.
- HEAT Offense: 105.1 (16)
- HEAT Defense: 104.1 (5)
- Wizards Offense: 108.5 (8)
- Wizards Defense: 106.8 (20)