The Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers have done everything they can to give up the No. 1 seed in the East. But on April 14, the Heat threw in the towel for good, preferring to give the aching LeBron James and Chris Bosh rest and limit Dwayne Wade's minutes against the Washington Wizards. As a result, Miami stood by as it fell behind by as many as 36 points, en route to a 114-93 Washington win that clinched the top seed for Indiana.
The Pacers looked finished when the Heat themselves beat them on April 11, yet a Heat loss to the Atlanta Hawks the next day set the stage for the Pacers to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder on April 13 to take the lead back. Miami then needed to beat Washington and the Philadelphia 76ers, and hope Indiana lost to the Orlando Magic on April 15.
Now the Pacers' last regular season game is meaningless, as they can rest starters and not pay the price for it. The Heat paid against a Wizards team fighting for playoff seeding, with Washington still locked into the sixth seed and trying to catch the Brooklyn Nets for fifth. If they can't, then the Wizards could face the Heat again in the second round if they pull a first round upset.
Of course, a Wizards-Heat playoff rematch would not look like their game on April 14 by a landslide. James and Bosh presumably would have stopped Washington from shooting 59 percent, would have given up less than 43 second quarter points, and would have improved on Miami's 7-for-27 three-point shooting. If Wade had played more than 18 minutes, he may have helped even the odds too.
The Heat are assuming that once James, Wade and Bosh start playing every game together in the playoffs, they will roll to a three-peat. It may get them through the first round or two in the weak East, but beating the Pacers in the conference finals, or a Western Conference champion likely to have home court advantage, could be a different matter.
Nevertheless, Miami has flipped the switch two years in a row, while having the top seed doesn't disguise how Indiana backed into it. For the Heat, all they know is that their preseason is mercifully almost over, no matter how they closed it out.