Heat's convincing win vs Raptors sets up crucial season finale

With some outside help from two other teams, the Miami Heat now have a chance to avoid the play-in tournament.
Toronto Raptors v Miami Heat
Toronto Raptors v Miami Heat / Megan Briggs/GettyImages

After getting destroyed at home by the Dallas Mavericks Wednesday night, the Miami Heat used a strong offensive outing highlighted by 37 assists on 45 made shots to overpower the Toronto Raptors, 125-103 Friday night at the Kaseya Center.

With some outside help from two other teams, the Miami Heat now have a chance to avoid the play-in tournament.

But the win alone isn't enough. The Heat needed to root for outside help to keep their slim chances of avoiding the play-in tournament alive. With the Philadelphia 76ers defeating the Orlando Magic and the Cleveland Cavaliers beating the Indiana Pacers, the Heat now have a path to sneak into the top six of the Eastern Conference.

Not only does Miami have to beat Toronto again on Sunday, the Heat will need the Milwaukee Bucks to defeat the Magic along with either the 76ers losing to the Brooklyn Nets at home or the Pacers losing at home to the Atlanta Hawks.

The Bucks decided to rest Damian Lillard in their loss to Oklahoma City Friday night. But with the New York Knicks having the same record after defeating the Nets, the Bucks will need to secure a win in order to hold onto that second seed, as one more loss and a Knicks win against a Chicago Bulls team that has clinched the ninth seed will bump them down to the third seed.

With Giannis Antetokounmpo already being ruled out for the remainder of the regular season and possibly missing more time, it will be interesting to see if Doc Rivers decides to play it safe and rest Lillard to ensure he is healthy come playoff time.

On the other side of the coin, with the Atlanta Hawks already clinching the tenth seed, it would be a shock to see Quin Snyder play his starters knowing that the regular season finale against the Pacers has no effect on their seeding. The slight positive for the Heat is that the Pacers have lost to a few teams under .500, including the Portland Trail Blazers twice, the Toronto Raptors and most recently the Brooklyn Nets. Miami is hoping that the Hawks can add the most important loss to that list even if they enter the game undermanned.

And for the last part of the rooting schedule for the Heat, the Brooklyn Nets just gave the New York Knicks all they could handle and went with an eight-man rotation that included Cam Thomas and Nic Claxton playing over 35 minutes. Mikal Bridges also played but only logged 24 minutes.

It is a positive to see that Brooklyn is still playing their best players, but it's unknown if that was their last hoorah in the 2023-2024 season after being eliminated from playoff contention a few weeks ago. Hopefully for the Heat's sake, the Nets decide to play spoiler against the 76ers who swept the Nets in the 2023 postseason.

Miami can look back at a multitude of games they wish they could have back, but with one game left, there's no time to ponder on the past, and they are ready to play any team in whatever scenario they find themselves in.

"We're just going to take it one game at a time," Bam Adebayo said. "We're going to play Sunday, and then we'll figure out the rest."