There's 1 scenario in which the Heat can avoid the play-in tournament

The Miami Heat need something like a miracle, but they would be better off ignoring the standings.
Apr 10, 2024; Miami, Florida, USA; Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra reacts during the first
Apr 10, 2024; Miami, Florida, USA; Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra reacts during the first / Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The models don’t give the Miami Heat much of a chance of escaping the play-in tournament. A 7% chance, according to Basketball Reference is a bit more rosy: 11.1%.

This is because the Heat, losers of three of their last five including Wednesday night to the Dallas Mavericks, need a very specific chain of events to vault them to the No. 6 seed and out of the 7-8 play-in tournament matchup that could end their season.

Here’s what needs to happen:

  1. The Heat need to win the last two games of the regular season. They host the Toronto Raptors on Friday and Sunday.
  2. An Orlando Magic loss at the Philadelphia 76ers Friday.
  3. A Magic loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in Orlando on Sunday.
  4. A 76ers home loss to the Nets on Sunday.

All of this would result in the Heat, Magic and 76ers finishing the regular season at 46-36, with the tiebreaker going to the Heat because of conference record.

Impossible? No. Certainly not when you look at how things have been set up as favorable as can be asked for when needing a miracle. (So, like, still not that great.)

The Raptors are 25-55 and have lost 19 of their last 22 games, and could be more motivated to lose to the Heat in order to keep their top-six protected pick in June’s draft.

The Magic have stumbled, losing three of their last four, and the 76ers are a better team with the return of Joel Embiid and a healthy backcourt of Tyrese Maxey and De’Anthony Melton. But a loss could be more of a long shot in Sunday's game against the Bucks. By then, the Bucks could be locked into their playoff seed and opt not to travel their top veterans. Giannis Antetokounmpo is already ruled out for the remainder of the regular season with a strained calf.

The Nets are 32-48 but have won three of their last four games going into this weekend.

But the team has little control and they know it. More likely than not, for the second straight season the Heat will need to win a game in the play-in tournament to make the playoffs.

“We’re going to set ourselves up to probably be in the play-in,” Tyler Herro said. “We’ve been there before and we’ll figure it out.”

Will they? Not if they play like this. 

"I don't care about the standings,” Erik Spoelstra said. "I'm focused on getting my team playing the right way."

And that’s probably the right way to handle things. If a miracle happens and the Heat escape the play-in – great. If not, then they’ll have to win the 7-8 matchup to claim the seventh seed and avoid a first-round matchup against the Boston Celtics. A loss in the 7-8 game would result in them playing the winner of the 9-10 game between the Atlanta Hawks and Chicago Bulls for the No. 8 seed.

The opinion here is to ignore the playoff jockeying, get right against the Raptors on Friday and Sunday, and prepare to win a 7-8 game that will serve as Miami’s biggest game of the season.