Rewind just about a week or two. The Heat are sitting in seventh place in the Eastern Conference with most experts picking them as the favorite to earn one of the final playoff spots over teams like the Celtics, Pacers, Hornets and Nets.
Fast forward to April 10, and the Heat are coming off of an embarrassing loss to the Bulls that buries the Miami Heat down to 10th place in the standings. The Heat held a 19-point lead at halftime before scoring just 27 points in the entire second half, leading to an 11-point loss in their home floor. Losing a second half by 30 points at home in a game crucial to your playoff lives doesn’t sound much like a team that’s too hungry for success.
The Miami Heat are just 3-8 over their last 11 games, while teams like Boston and Indiana have the third and fourth best records, respectively, in the Eastern Conference since the All-Star break, and Brooklyn couldn’t be hotter, winners of nine of its last 12. As things stand going into Friday night’s slate of games, both the Celtics and Nets are 36-42 (Boston owns seventh place due to tiebreakers while Brooklyn is in eighth), the Pacers are 35-43 and the Heat are 35-44.
As you might have noticed, aside from having to work their way up from the bottom of the pack, the Heat are also at the disadvantage of only having three games left on their schedule. The rest of the teams will all have four chances to improve their records. Here’s a look at the remaining opponents for each:
Boston Celtics: at Cleveland, Cleveland, Toronto and at Milwaukee *
Brooklyn Nets: Washington, at Milwaukee, Chicago and Orlando
Indiana Pacers: at Detroit, Oklahoma City, Washington, and at Memphis
Miami Heat: Toronto, Orlando and at Philadelphia
- Some notes: The Celtics and Nets are both still eligible to knock the Bucks out of the sixth seed. The Celtics have a tough schedule on the surface, but LeBron James may shut it down for the regular season with the Cavs locked into the second seed.
If the Heat have one thing working in their favor, it’s that they probably have the easiest schedule over those three games — all of them are very winnable. But even if Miami does finish 38-44, they would need a lot of help from the teams that now sit above them.
According to John Hollinger’s NBA Playoff Odds on ESPN.com, the Heat hold a 35.5 percent chance of getting into the postseason — slightly better than the Pacers chances at 32.7 percent. But the Nets and Celtics both sit at, essentially, 66 percent chances, and it’s going to be tough for the Heat to hope for one — or both — of those teams to fall out AND beat the Pacers for their spot.
“Still in it,” as Dwyane Wade said after the loss to the Bulls. But an unexpected collapse from the team with the highest expectations of the bunch has made it a whole lot less likely that we even see Miami in the 2015 postseason at all.
Follow me on Twitter @julianedlow