MIAMI (SportsDirect Inc.) — The Miami Heat escaped from the tiebreaker scenario in the Eastern Conference at the top of the pack and will have home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.READ MORE: Rapper Polo G, Others Facing Charges Following Traffic Stop In Miami
The third-seeded Heat ended up with the Southeast Division title and will host Game 1 on Sunday against the Charlotte Hornets, who finished with an identical record but got the sixth seed based on the tiebreakers.
Miami, Atlanta, Boston and Charlotte all finished with the same record after the Celtics overcame a 24-point halftime deficit to defeat the Heat on the final day of the regular season.
Miami is shaking off that loss and is ready to face the playoffs without All-Star Chris Bosh, who has been out since the All-Star break and will miss the postseason due to a medical condition.
The Heat added veteran Joe Johnson when it became clear that Bosh would not be coming back anytime soon, and Johnson averaged 13.4 points in 24 games while helping the team go 16-8 in that span.
The Hornets surged with an 18-6 mark over the final 24 games to pull into the four-way tie behind Kemba Walker’s average of 21.6 points in that span.
TV: 5:30 p.m. ET, TNT, FSN Sun (Miami)READ MORE: Second Annual 'Floatarama' Held On The New River To Celebrate Pride Month
ABOUT THE HORNETS (48-34): Walker is at his best when Nicolas Batum is alongside in the backcourt, and Batum plans to be ready for Game 1 despite missing Wednesday’s finale with a sprained left ankle. “Unless we get a setback, I think he’ll be fine,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford told reporters. “We’re going to do more contact (Saturday), but we did some defensive drills and stuff (Friday) and he was fine. So I think he’ll be good.” The 27-year-old Frenchman averaged career highs of 14.9 points and 5.8 assists in his first season with Charlotte and posted 14.8 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in four games against Miami.
ABOUT THE HEAT (48-34): Miami ended up losing 98-88 at Boston on Wednesday but quickly brushed aside what could have been a demoralizing loss and focused on the positives. The Heat are back in the playoffs after missing out last season and come in with some momentum after a surprising surge without Bosh following the break. “We’ve had a lot of adversity in that locker room, and I really commend those guys for coming together and not making excuses,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra told reporters. “It looked pretty bleak after the All-Star break. You look at it now and say, ‘Oh, this is what was expected, to go 19-10.’ That’s not what people were thinking. But guys really banded together and got out of their comfort zones and we put together a pretty good run finishing it out.”
1. The Heat, who then featured LeBron James, swept Charlotte in the opening round of the playoffs in 2014.
2. Hornets reserve C Al Jefferson went 19-of-26 from the field in the final two games of the regular season and will do battle with Heat C Hassan Whiteside.
3. Miami PF Udonis Haslem (foot) is questionable for Sunday.MORE NEWS: Event Held To Vaccinate Farmworkers In Homestead
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