It was not a dress rehearsal, given that there would be a full week for practice before their post-season opener.
And it didn’t play to seeding, with the No. 1 spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs secured the night before.
Instead Friday night was just a moment to create another night of regular-season magic at the FTX Arena.
On that count, another mission was accomplished, leading the Heat to a 113–109 victory over the Atlanta Hawks, a team playing for seeding position ahead of Sunday’s NBA Season Finals.
“It’s for the fans, man,” Kendra Bam Adebayo said. “We have incredible fans. I can’t wait to see what White Hot [the Heat home playoff theme] Looks like.”
What the Heat achieved in their home finish was a sufficient reminder of how they rose to the top of the East, and what could happen next.
There were 24 points from Adebayo, 20 from Jimmy Butler, 16 from Kyle Lowry and 15 from Tyler Harrow, who had a crucial 3-pointer with 1:27.
“It was great to find a way out of a close game, a competitive game,” Heat coach Eric Spoelstra said. “If I could script it, it would be this one.”
The Heat, now on a season-best six-game winning streak, close out their regular season on Sunday at the Amway Center against the Orlando Magic, with Spoelstra expected to be out of his regulars.
Trai Young led the Hawks with 35 points, with teammate Bogdan Bogdanovic adding 25 points.
Five degrees of heat from Friday’s game:
1. Completion Time: The Heat led 24–22 at the end of the opening period, trailing 61–56 at halftime, then taking a 91–87 lead in the fourth.
From there, the Hawks moved into a 103–97 lead with 5:18 to play.
But with 1:44 to play, a Herro 3-pointer tied to the front rim extended the heat to 109-107.
A young floater would level it 109-109 with 1:27 to play, with Adebayo swooping in for a dunk with 27.1 seconds remaining for a 111-109 heat lead.
A missed Hawks 3-point effort later, Herro reached the line with 5.7 seconds to spare, eliminating both for a four-point lead, effectively ending it.
2. Playoff Focus: With the Brooklyn Nets going east to defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers 118-107 on Friday night, it took the Nets to No. 7, needing only one win to secure the No. 7 seed over the Indiana Pacers on Sunday.
The No. 7 seed hosts the No. 8 seed in the first round of the play-in tournament on Tuesday night, with the winner of that game taking the No. 7 seed and exiting the Heat’s Eastern Conference bracket. ,
The Heat will play the No. 8 seed in a best-of-seven series starting Sunday at the FTX Arena, which won’t be determined until next Friday.
7 from the play-in round, the Heat’s first-round playoff opponents will be the Hawks, Cavaliers, or Charlotte Hornets.
Spoelstra said he is leaving the play-in scenarios to others.
“I was never good at math, and everyone explained all the different scenarios,” he said. “That’s when you lose me in 30 seconds.
“It will play the way it should have played.”
3. Accident Anxiety: The Heat opted to play this alongside their primary rotation, losing a member of their power rotation for the second time in as many games.
Three nights after starting the power forward PJ Tucker lost with a strained right calf in Tuesday night’s home win over the Hornets, backup center Deven Deadman left the locker room with 8:50 to go on the court during a defensive scuffle. I went limping.
Deadmon was walking in because of a sprain in his right ankle.
The Heat were already without third-string center Omar Yurtseven due to a non-COVID colic ailment.
Spoelstra said that Deadmon could come back if need be.
“I knew pretty quickly that he was just going to re-tape,” Spoelstra said. “He was just re-taping his ankle and he was really available if we needed him.”
4. Trai Bien: If this was an attempt by the Heat to send a message to Young even before a potential playoff matchup, it was a mixed message.
After scoring six first-quarter points, Young exploded for 17 in the second period, including a 6 for 6 in the second period, closing the first half on a 9 for 11 off the field.
It was the 29th time in the NBA’s lead this season that Young scored 20 or more runs in a half.
Caleb Martin started the heat defending Young, but everything basically changed when he wasn’t bringing in another defender.
But Young then went 0 for 6 at 3-pointers, 3 of 12 off the field in the second half.
“We were trying to disrupt the try as much as possible in that second half,” said heat guard Gabe Vincent.
5. With Meaning: Spoelstra said it was important to applaud the No. 1 seed win, which the Heat achieved on Thursday.
“It means something,” he said. “I think you can take the gratitude and satisfaction from a meaningful regular season out of it. It’s not everything, but it’s definitely something. And I think in this league to shoot for something and for something.” It’s always good to compete.”
Spoelstra said it all comes down to perspective.
“It wasn’t something we were talking about every single day,” he said, “but we did talk about learning how to win, and doing it without excuses, and doing it a lot. It has to do with the different things that are coming our way this year, and the adversity and people inside and outside the lineup.”