The Heat beat Portland on Monday — squandering a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter before doing so — but that snapped a highly befuddling streak of missed Miami opportunities.
Before Monday, the Pacers had lost six games in March. And every time, the Heat either lost on the same night or in their next game, meaning a half-dozen chances to tighten up the East race were squandered.
“As many chances as we had, we kept playing with it, we were struggling, they were struggling, we had our chances,” Bosh said. “We still have our chance with two showdowns with them.”
True, Wednesday’s isn’t even the last Heat-Pacers meeting of this regular season. The teams square off in Miami on April 11.
This, though, might be the one that ultimately decides the East. If Miami falls three games out now — the Pacers will have only 10 games left after Wednesday — that could get the Heat to start thinking about how to rest certain players before the postseason begins. With Dwyane Wade in and out of the lineup often this season, Miami has used 18 starting lineups; the Pacers have used only three.
Wade hopes to play Wednesday. The Heat said he sat out Monday with an ankle issue; Wade clarified on Tuesday that it’s actually a sore Achilles’ tendon, but he was able to practice before the team flew to Indianapolis. And if the Heat can close the gap in the standings, that could be a springboard for the two-time defending champions, who face a slew of sub-.500 teams in the next couple weeks.
“It’s coming down to a photo finish,” Bosh said. “We have a unique opportunity. No matter what’s happened this whole season, we’re within striking distance. It’s here and it’ll be a great playoff atmosphere. I can’t wait.”