There will be postseason basketball at the Miami Heat’s home court, no matter what name the facility goes by these days.
That part was clinched with Thursday night’s 129-101 win over the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center, the Heat’s biggest victory of the season.
“I just know we’re gaining some confidence,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “And we are getting healthy at the right time,”
Now assured of no worse than a seventh-place finish in the Eastern Conference, the Heat will, at the very least, if they can’t make any more gains, host an inning game Tuesday night at the Kaseya Center against the Atlanta Hawks. Or the Toronto Raptors.
There also remains a long shot of the Heat moving to No. 6 in the East and facing the No. 3 76ers in the first round, which would give them the bye week and avoid the play-in round.
With much more to play for, with Philly locked in at No. 3 going into the night, the Heat built a 25-point first-half lead and took the night from there.
“You don’t see anything coming with our team this year,” Spoelstra said of a season that has included ups and downs like Thursday, as well as the lows of multiple losses to lottery teams.
The win extended the Heat’s winning streak to three and raised hopes of making a splash in the postseason.
“We’ve just been focused on us, our consistency, how we want to play and having that kind of reliable focus every night,” Spoelstra said.
Jimmy Butler, who allowed himself the luxury of sitting out the fourth quarter, sparked the Heat with 24 points on 9-of-12 shooting, backed by 24 from Tyler Herro and 14 each from Bam Adebayo and Max Strus.
The 76ers, who retired their starters early in the fourth quarter, got 21 points from Joel Embiid and 14 from James Harden.
“They were in a different circumstance than we were,” Spoelstra said.
Five degrees of heat from Thursday’s game:
1. Stack it on: The Heat led 41-31 after a first period that saw them go 6-for-10 on 3-pointers. They then went up 25 in the second period, before taking a 67-46 halftime lead.
From there, the Heat extended their lead to 26 in the third quarter, the 76ers rallied to 13, and the Heat took a 96-78 lead in the fourth.
The game leaned in the Heat’s direction to the point that even while leading 106-83 with 7:15 left, the Heat successfully defied a block charge call to regain possession and nullify Philadelphia’s potential free throws. .
“Our pace was unbelievable tonight,” guard Kyle Lowry said, as the Heat tied the franchise record with 39 assists.
2. Image of the playoffs: With the win, the Heat have secured no less than seventh place in the Eastern Conference. That means, worst-case scenario, they’ll have two chances in the play-in round, starting Tuesday, to earn just one win needed to advance to the first round of the best-of-seven playoffs.
“We understand the situation we find ourselves in,” Lowry said.
As a play-in team, if the Heat advance, they would face either the No. 1 Milwaukee Bucks or the No. 2 Boston Celtics in the first round.
The Heat still have an outside shot at No. 6 in the East, the last direct conference playoff berth, but that would require four specific results: Heat wins over the Wizards on Friday night and Magic on Sunday, as well as losses of the Brooklyn Nets on Friday to the Magic and Sunday to the 76ers. Anything short of those exact four results and the Nets get No. 6 ahead of the Heat.
“All that matters now,” Herro said, “is that we have a great opportunity. The playoffs are right around the corner.”
3. Butler Time: After a passive first half Tuesday night in Detroit, Butler went out in attack mode, tallying eight points and five assists in his opening 11-minute period. His four shots in that quarter were four times as many as he took in the first quarter Tuesday.
He was up 10 points and six assists at halftime, opening the second half scoring with a 3-pointer.
“I was making all the right plays,” he said.
In addition to his 24 points, Butler had six assists and three rebounds.
“Jimmy being assertive is important,” Spoelstra said.
The Heat closed at .557 from the field, .462 on 3-pointers.
“It’s hard to beat us when we make shots,” Butler said.
4. Iron Heater: Herro scored 16 points in his first 16 minutes, including 3-of-4 on 3-pointers and 5-of-5 from the line.
Herro, who made 5 of 8 on 3-pointers, was supported by the solid 3-pointer from Strus, who started for the third straight game and made 4 of 8 on 3-pointers.
The Heat again tried to hide their defensive responsibilities with lots of zoning, which worked particularly well in the first half, helping hold the 76ers to a .278 3-point total.
5. Everyone plays: Having limited his rotation to eight players in Tuesday night’s win over the Pistons early on this trip, Spoelstra was 10 deep late in the first period this time around, injecting both Haywood Highsmith and Duncan Robinson into the mix.
Lowry, Caleb Martin and Kevin Love again played the main three off the bench.
Love helped set the tone, drawing four charges, the most by a Heat player this season.
“He has a great ability for that,” Spoelstra said.
“I felt them all,” Love said.
Spoelstra later said Lowry would sit out Friday night in Washington for the second night of a straight set.