It has been a long and arduous road for the Miami Heat, one in which the defending champs have been looking up at the Indiana Pacers for the No. 1 spot all season long. Well, after a crucial victory at home against the Toronto Raptors, the Heat have finally claimed that spot in the Eastern Conference, leading the Pacers by .06 percentage point in the standings. While the Heat have won their last three games (beating their last three opponents by double figure margins), the Pacers have hit an absolute skid. In their last five losses, the Pacers’ offense has absolutely struggled, scoring less than 80 points consistently in that span.
“When the Pacers were talking, ‘Hey, No. 1 seed, home court,’ I was like, ‘It’s August. Let’s calm down a little bit.'” — Chris Bosh
Although Bosh jokingly said this after the Heat beat the Raptors on Monday night, his intentions were meant to be a stab at the Pacers. From the beginning of the season, the Pacers have proclaimed that the top seed in the Eastern Conference would be their’s, and the Heat as a team sat quietly, denying any association with want for the top spot. By allowing the Heat to finally catch up in the standings, the Pacers’ team psyche is beginning to crumble. This has also given the Heat an edge heading into these two teams’ final matchup on Apr. 11, which could be the last chance for either team to claim the No. 1 spot in the East.
The Pacers face a much more grueling finish to the season, so the Heat could ultimately close out the race for the top spot well before their final matchup. Securing the No. 1 seed was never a top priority for the Heat this season, or really any season. It’s all about how the team performs in the playoffs, because having home court advantage doesn’t always guarantee a championship.