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Heat eliminated, but season finale still has significance

It has been a rough season in the first year of the post-LeBron James era for the Miami Heat. After going to four straight NBA Finals with James and his cohorts Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, the Heat were eliminated from the postseason when the Indiana Pacers beat the Washington Wizards in double-overtime on Tuesday night.

A healthy Heat squad likely would have made the playoffs in the Eastern Conference, especially after acquiring Goran Dragic at the trade deadline. However, the team was never able to get healthy. Josh McRoberts barely played due to injury after signing last offseason. Bosh had the scary issue with blood clots on one of his lungs. Wade, per usual, dealt with some nagging injuries. Newcomer Hassan Whiteside missed some time with a hand injury, and others dealt with injuries as well.

Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports

Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports

All in all, just tough circumstances for Miami, and you’d think that this last game against the Philadelphia 76ers wouldn’t mean anything. After all, the Heat are out of the postseason and the Sixers are one of the worst teams in the league.

However, this game actually does have implications.

When James went to Miami in 2010, it was actually part of a sign-and-trade deal that gave the Cavaliers some draft picks, including a future first-round pick that’s top 10 protected for 2015 and 2016, and then unprotected in 2017 if not conveyed by then. Cleveland then traded that pick to Philly in the three-team deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves that involved Kevin Love.

This means that the Sixers currently own that top 10 protected pick for this year. And where are the Heat in the standings? Why, they have the 10th-worst record in the NBA.

If Miami loses and keeps the 10th-worst record, that pick will almost certainly stay right where it is. The only way the Heat would give up that pick then is if somebody behind them in the lottery jumped into the top three, and those odds are tiny.

But if Miami wins and Brooklyn loses, the two teams would end up with the same record. In that case, a coin flip would decide the 10th and 11th spot in the lottery. If the Heat lost that coin flip, they’d be in the 11th spot and in serious danger of losing the pick. The only way Miami would keep the pick is if the ping pong balls were favorable and that pick turned into a top three pick.

So both the Heat and Sixers want to lose for a better chance of getting this pick, and Philly also wants to lose because they could potentially tie the New York Knicks for the second-worst record in the league. All this basically means is there could be an epic tank-off going on in Philadelphia. The line for this game opened with the Heat as a 4.5-point favorite, but now the Sixers are a 1.5-point favorite in most places. Buckle up.

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