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Another Opportunity Wasted

Somebody please explain to me why the Miami Heat and coach Erik Spoelstra chose to win its season finale against the New Jersey Nets. Perhaps I am simply not as smart as I thought I was.

In my crazy mind, the Bucks did us a huge favor by beating the Celtics. The victory meant the Heat could quite literally have chosenĀ its desired playoff match-up. By intentionally losing its season finale, the Heat could have fallen to sixth in the Eastern Conference and secured a first round playoff match-up against an Atlanta Hawks team it holds a 3-1 record against on the season. Better still, it would have allowed for a potential second round match-up against an Orlando Magic team it played to a 2-2 push.

By taking the win against the league’s worst team, the Heat has taken over the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. That means a first round match-up against the fourth-seeded Boston Celtics. The Heat played the Celtics to an 0-3 record on the season. The Heat, in fact, is 1-11 in its last 12 games against Boston, with its only win coming when the Celtics were without Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo. It also means that if the Heat miraculously took out the Celtics, the Cleveland Cavaliers would be waiting in the wings. The Heat are the proud owners of exactly zero wins against the Cavs.

I thought coach Spoelstra was a numbers coach. The numbers are about as obvious as could possibly be expected.

It’s difficult to understand why the Heat chose not to give away the game.

Some might say it was so the team can enter the playoffs on a roll. But the team’s top three players all sat the game out anyway. Can you really be on a roll when Yakhouba Diawara, who will be ineligible to play during the playoffs, hits the game’s biggest shot?

Others might say tanking a game is bad karma. I would submit that any coach who believes in karma, fairies, angels or demons should not be a coach in the N.B.A. Coaches should believe in their players, and they should believe in match-ups. By all accounts, the Atlanta Hawks were a better match-up. The Heat had complete control over its fate, and chose the match-up that will in all likelihood end its season. Had it chosen otherwise, I would imagine Vegas odds-makers would have had a Hawks/Heat series at a virtual toss up.

Somebody please explain.

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