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Heat avoid play-in tournament, clinch playoff berth with win over Celtics

The reigning Eastern Conference champions will have a top 6 seed in the 2021 NBA playoffs.

Jimmy Butler of the Miami Heat looks on during the game against the Boston Celtics on May 10, 2021 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

The Miami Heat are heading back to the playoffs. After surprising everyone in the bubble en route to becoming Eastern Conference champions in 2020, the Heat are in and won’t have to partake in the play-in tournament. Miami went into Boston and took down the reeling Celtics 129-121 on Tuesday night to secure the spot. The Heat are tied with the Atlanta Hawks at 38-31 but remain in the sixth seed in the conference.

The Heat seem poised to make another big run outside the top four. They finished last season as the fifth seed and rallied to knock off the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks en route to the NBA Finals. While Miami ultimately fell short to the Los Angeles Lakers on the final stage, its core group from a season ago will get a chance to get the job done this time.

DraftKings Sportsbook gives the Heat the fourth-best odds to come out of the Eastern Conference at +1400. Miami’s title odds are +4000, and that’s good for ninth among all the teams in the running. It’s clear that this is no average sixth seed. It had to go through all sorts of adversity.

Injuries and a COVID-19 outbreak derailed the Heat’s season early, and they weren’t even in the playoff picture at the All-Star break. They began to turn things around after the midpoint of the yea, and Jimmy Butler had a lot to do with that. Miami’s leader has scored, rebounded, and assisted at an elite level since early March alongside Bam Adebayo since early March. The pair of stars could get a helping hand from Victor Oladipo, who was acquired from the Houston Rockets ahead of the trade deadline when the playoffs come around if he can resolve the knee pain that’s kept him sidelined since early April.

Miami is the team nobody wants to play in the first round. It’ll either face the Bucks squad it knocked out of contention in the second round of last year’s playoffs in the first round, or take on the New York Knicks. The Heat will be ready for either opponent and will be a darkhorse worth monitoring.