Playoff seedings at stake as 76ers visit Heat

NBA Basketball

The Philadelphia 76ers and Miami Heat have clinched playoff spots but when the two meet Thursday night in South Florida, postseason seeding will be on the minds of both.

Philadelphia (47-22) had a chance to clinch the top spot in the Eastern Conference on Tuesday but saw its eight-game winning streak end with a 103-94 loss to the host Indiana Pacers.

The 76ers could clinch the No. 1 seed with a win in Miami on Thursday or with a Brooklyn Nets loss to San Antonio on Wednesday night.

Philadelphia saw Indiana — which clinched a spot in the play-in tournament with the win Tuesday — outscore the 76ers 28-19 after the two were tied going into the fourth.

“We just have to bounce back,” said Tobias Harris, who scored 27 points in the loss. “Obviously this is a terrible loss for us. It’s a game that we had, but we lost our composure throughout the fourth quarter, which can’t happen for a team striving to be how good we want to be.”

Miami (38-31) clinched a playoff spot on Tuesday night after beating the host Celtics for the second consecutive time.

So, Miami at least knows it is in the postseason, but the Heat would like to move up in the standings. The Heat, Knicks and Hawks are all tied for the Nos. 4-6 seeds with three games remaining.

The Heat hold the tiebreaker against New York but does not against Atlanta.

So, Miami needs to keep winning and hope one of the teams it is tied with (especially the Hawks) loses a game or two.

The Heat have won three consecutive games and six of their past seven.

Miami plays its final home game on Thursday and will be on the road (Milwaukee on Saturday, Detroit on Sunday) to close out the regular season.

“We’re trending in the right direction,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who has led his team to the playoffs in 10 of his 13 seasons. “Guys are feeling good about where we are going, but that doesn’t guarantee anything on a night-to-night basis.”

Philadelphia was playing without some key players in Indiana on Tuesday, most notably MVP candidate Joel Embiid, who did not travel with the team with a non-COVID-19 illness.

It is not known whether Embiid would meet his team in Miami or miss Thursday’s game and return for Philadelphia’s final two home games (Friday and Sunday) against Orlando.

Philadelphia was also without Furkan Korkmaz (right ankle sprain), Matisse Thybulle (left hand soreness) and Shake Milton (right knee soreness) on Thursday.

The Heat pulled away from the Celtics in the second half Tuesday without the services of forward Jimmy Butler.

Before halftime, Butler and Marcus Smart collided with Butler appearing to take a shot to the head.

Miami said Butler was out because he was poked in the eye, and Spoelstra said there was a possibility the former Philadelphia star could have returned to the game.

Butler is expected to be back Thursday to face his former teammates.

“It’s not from a concussion. It’s more like getting smacked in the eye,” Spoelstra said. “He was warming up with a ball in the locker room to start the fourth quarter, gearing up getting ready to play.”

–Field Level Media

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