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Mar 25, 2024 2:28 pm

Heat, Warriors clash with postseason stakes high

bam adebayo

A crucial, five-game road swing continues for the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday when they visit the Miami Heat, who are amid their own pivotal homestand.

Tuesday marks the third of four straight home games and six of seven at home for Miami. The Heat split the first two of the homestand, losing in a 111-88 blowout on Friday to New Orleans before rebounding with a 121-84 rout of Cleveland on Sunday.

The win over the Cavaliers was Miami’s second against Cleveland in less than a week, and it sent the Heat (39-32) into Monday’s NBA action just a half-game behind the Indiana Pacers for sixth-place — and a guaranteed playoff spot — in the Eastern Conference.

Bam Adebayo said the Heat can’t stop to celebrate single wins like the victory over the Cavaliers with a bigger picture in mind.

“When it gets into the playoffs, these games don’t matter,” Adebayo said following his 15-point, 16-rebound double-double on Sunday. “The game slows down. Possession by possession it starts looking a lot different.”

Where these results do matter for Miami are in the race for playoff seeding. The Heat are in search of one of the East’s top six spots to avoid the play-in round.

Miami and the Philadelphia 76ers ended Sunday tied, each right on the heels of the Indiana Pacers and within just 3 1/2 games of the fourth-place New York Knicks. The coming weeks will decide which teams have home-court advantage in the opening round and those that will have to appear in the play-in round.

Golden State (36-34) finds itself in its own perilous playoff pursuit, while trying to avoid falling out of the play-in altogether.

The Warriors have dropped six of their past nine, including their two most recent games with a 123-111 loss to Indiana on Friday, and a 114-110 setback at Minnesota on Sunday to begin their road trip.

The recent downturn resulted in Golden State slipping to 10th in the Western Conference, 2 1/2 games behind the Los Angeles Lakers and just a game ahead of the Houston Rockets, the last team out of the play-in, through games played on Sunday.

Stephen Curry was limited to 30 minutes of playing time against the Timberwolves, when he scored a team-leading 31 points. Warriors coach Steve Kerr is managing the minutes of the 15-year veteran Curry ahead of the postseason.

“We’ve got Chris Paul out there, we’ve got Klay (Thompson), we’ve got Draymond (Green). We’ve got great players out there,” Kerr said following the loss in Minnesota. “We can’t just expect to ride Steph game-after-game-after-game.

“These last few weeks have been really tough on him. We’ve put the burden of this franchise on his shoulders for 15 years. We can’t expect him to play 35 minutes (per game). We’ve got five games in seven days on this road trip.”

The two-time Most Valuable Player Curry is averaging 26.8 points per game to lead Golden State on the season and shooting 40.4 percent on 12.1 3-point attempts per game. The next-highest scorer, Thompson, is averaging 17.3 points and shooting 38.2 percent from long distance, with Jonathan Kuminga averaging 16.3 points per game.

While Golden State looks for the right combination of playing time for its leader, Miami continues to deal with the absences of key players. Tyler Herro, averaging 20.8 points per game, has not played since Feb. 23 with a foot injury.

Duncan Robinson has missed the past three games due to back spasms, and rookie Jaime Jaquez Jr. sat out Sunday’s win due to a knee injury.

–Field Level Media

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