Heat Earn Sixth Seed In The Playoffs, Must Now Face The Hottest Team In The NBA

Alex Donno
April 12, 2018 - 8:14 am
Heat Raptors

© Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

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Here's the good news: The Miami Heat wrapped up their regular season with a positive, momentum building win. Miami left everything on the floor in a 116-109 overtime victory over the top-seeded Toronto Raptors. Wayne Ellington shined with a career high 32 points, and hit 8 three-pointers to become the Heat's single-season leader in threes (passing Damon Jones.)

The Raptors weren't resting. They were pushing for a franchise-best 60th victory. The Heat denied them well providing excellent theater at the American Airlines Arena. 

The not-so-good news? Miami's reward for this victory is a meeting with the league's hottest team in the first round of the playoffs. 

The Heat take the 6-seed in the East and will open their playoff run this weekend at 3-seed Philadelphia. The 76ers have won sixteen straight games.

The real reward would have come with the 7-seed, right? That would have matched Miami up against the banged-up Boston Celtics. Depending on last night's results, scenarios existed for the Heat to come away with the 6, 7, or 8-seeds. From a competitve standpoint, Erik Spoelstra's team achieved the best outcome of the night. 

So, why do some fans feel like they're being punished? Can we look on the bright side? The Heat and Sixers split their season series 2-2. Miami nearly had a 3-1 series edge, but blew a 24-point lead in the teams' Valentine's Day meeting. So, things were quite competitive between the two during the regular season. 

Plus, Joel Embiid won't start the series due to a facial fracture. I'm sure the Heat won't mind if he takes as much time off as he needs. 

What frightens some fans about this matchup is the fact that the Sixers are peaking at the right time. They haven't lost in a month. They have the favorite for rookie of the year in Ben Simmonds, who leads the NBA in total touches this season. They have top overall pick Markelle Fultz, who's been on a tear. At some point in the series, they'll have Joel Embiid, who will want to bring his best against Hassan Whiteside. They have home court advantage. 

It won't be easy. "Is there any other way but the hard way for this group?" Said Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra. "It's absolutely fitting we had to go to overtime to get the number six seed."

Instead of tanking the final game or maneuvering for the 7-seed, the Heat played their best possible basketball. They aren't backing into the playoffs, they're sprinting in. 

When you compare this to last year, when the Heat missed the playoffs on a tie-breaker in the season's final day, this feels great. Soak it in and appreciate it. Playoff basketball is coming back to South Florida. 

The Heat and 76ers will play Game 1 this Saturday, 8pm at the Wells Fargo Center.