It’s the last week of the regular season, and the top of the pecking order couldn’t be clearer. The Bucks are proud owners of the best record in the National Basketball Association, while the Warriors have clinched the Number One spot in the West. Yesterday’s runaway triumph over the Clippers ensured the standing of the defending champions, holders of a tiebreaker against the second-running Nuggets. For those still angling to claim playoff seedings, however, the outcomes of the games still to be played out remain relevant.
Take the case of the Heat, who could well have been on the way to an outright postseason berth with a victory. Instead, they lost in overtime off an unfortunate turn of events at the close of their match yesterday. With the score tied and 10 ticks left in regulation, referee Eric Lewis blew his whistle even though Dion Waiters, designated to inbound, didn’t have the ball yet. The sound naturally had the other players moving into position — too early, as things turned out. The result was a broken set that saw Dwyane Wade, who was supposed to take the last shot, unable to even be part of it.
Just like the Hornets, the Heat remain in contention for a playoff ticket, but just barely. Even if they wind up winning their last two outings, their fate isn’t entirely in their hands. The Pistons are ahead of them in the standings, and would need to lose against the Grizzlies and Knicks in order for them to squeak through. As head coach Erik Spoelstra admitted in the aftermath, “we’ll need some help. The only thing we control is what we do. We’ve got to dust this one off, get back to Miami, and win the next game.”
Not coincidentally, that next game will be Wade’s last at the American Airlines Arena. Even as his retirement tour has invariably been a wellspring of good vibes, its next stop figures to be a bittersweet spectacle that may yet overshadow the set-to against the Sixers. The best outcome, needless to say, is a victory after the fitting send-off — with him making the winning basket as a bonus. The hope is that he’ll have the opportunity to do so, and that no referee will blow an inadvertent whistle to scuttle it prematurely.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994.