The prospect of ultimately attaining the No. 1 seed in the conference has been something the Miami Heat have denied wanting since the beginning of the season, and it now looks like they have gotten what they wanted. With the Indiana Pacers‘ crucial win against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday afternoon, the Heat are now a half game back for the top seed and would need to win out their next two games while also hoping for a Pacer loss in their final game to jump ahead in the conference. That’s probably not going to happen.
Now that the Heat have more or less settled for the No. 2 seed, the organization and coaching staff have the luxury of resting various members of the starting lineup for the last two games of the season heading into the first round of the playoffs this weekend. The stress of having to attain the top spot is gone for the defending champs, and players like LeBron James and Chris Bosh (both of whom have been in relative slumps, mostly due to exhaustion) will finally get the opportunity to rest a few games and prepare for the brutal stretch run of the playoffs. The Heat won’t find out who their potential first round opponent is until Wednesday night, but their options at this point have come down to the Washington Wizards, Atlanta Hawks or the Charlotte Bobcats.
If the Heat opt to rest the majority of their starters against the Wizards on Monday night, many are taking this as a sign the defending champs have given up on attaining the top spot in the conference. Bosh has a slightly different view on the situation as he told ESPN:
“I’m not saying we’re not trying. But if you play the games and you come up short, it’s not the end of the world. We’ve been the No. 2 seed before and got to the Finals. And we’ve been a No. 1 seed and made it to the Finals. We just have to take it challenge by challenge as it comes.”
Bosh is absolutely right. Home-court advantage isn’t something that always guarantees a championship, but guess what helps? Having a fully healthy roster. Health has been something the Heat have been working on all season, and this last week of rest before the playoffs is the final touch on keeping that priority in check. Hopefully for the Heat, this method translates into a third straight championship, but again, nothing is guaranteed.