A lot could happen in three days. For instance, the Miami Heat could happen to defeat the Washington Wizards and Philadelphia 76ers and still end up in second place in the Eastern Conference. Or the Indiana Pacers could loosen their clamp on things with a loss on Wednesday night. Which explains why Lance Stephenson plans to “treat (the season finale) like a playoff game.”
The Pacers need to secure the top spot so that they can justify their yearlong obsession for better playoff seeding, because they believe that the only thing holding them back from an NBA Finals appearance is an assumed seventh game. That seventh game is neither promised nor guaranteed, especially when Indiana expects to play a Miami team that has already won — in the postseason — on their court.
Getting first place has been Indiana’s passion. The Heat, on the other hand, have all signs pointing to LeBron James and many of the starters sitting out their season-enders in hope of helping them be fresh for the playoffs.
This is where conspiracy theories come in.
Miami’s decision to rest players has been the same for the entire 2013-14 calendar, but skeptics like ESPN’s Mike Greenberg believe that they have been tanking games to avoid playing the winner of a potential Brooklyn Nets–Chicago Bulls series — even though coach Erik Spoelstra has made it routine to bench James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, for the last three years, with standings movement still in the balance.
However, if dodging teams was the goal, then mission accomplished because the Heat look like they are about to lockup two rounds against teams that are just happy to be there. Sounds like a win-win to me.