What seemed like an innocuous season-ending victory for the Heat could be the key to home-court advantage in a potential NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks.
By defeating the Toronto Raptors on the final night of the regular season, the Heat clinched the playoff tiebreaker against the Mavericks despite Heat coach Erik Spoelstra sitting out stars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh that night.
Dallas has already advanced to the Western Conference final, while the Heat is up 3-1 on the Boston Celtics in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals after Monday's 98-90 overtime victory at TD Garden.
Spoelstra said he was well aware of the Dallas angle when he nonetheless opted to sit out his stars in the season finale.
"I absolutely thought that Dallas could be there in the Finals," he said. "I knew what was at stake. It was tough. You have to weigh a lot of different things at that point in the year."
Instead, seldom used guard Eddie House went out and scored a career-high 35 points that night in Toronto, third-string center Jamaal Magloire grabbed a season-best 19 rebounds, and end-of-rotation forward Juwan Howard scored a season-high 18 points. The Heat won 97-79.
"It feels good, looking back, to know we might make a difference," Magloire said. "I'm glad that we put ourselves in the best position possible for this postseason run."
House said it's comforting to know he could play a role in such significant home-court advantage.
"It's nice to have homecourt however we got it," House said. "That's big for us. That's what, at the end of the day, we were playing for all year."
The Heat defeated the Mavericks 4-2 in the 2006 NBA Finals despite lacking homecourt advantage. They did win all three home games at AmericanAirlines Arena in that series.
The only remaining team in the playoffs with home-court advantage on the Heat is Chicago. The Heat would have home-court advantage against the Thunder, Grizzlies or Mavericks in potential NBA Finals.
HEAT 98, CELTICS 90 (OT): With LeBron James stepping up in the fourth quarter and Chris Bosh then contributing in the overtime, the Heat moved to a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series. James, who has struggled at times in his career in the postseason against Boston, this time closed with 35 points and 14 rebounds, supported by 28 points and nine rebounds from guard Dwyane Wade. Bosh added 20 points and 12 rebounds.
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