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ASK IRA: If No. 7 is the ceiling for the Heat, does that put No. 8 or No. 9 into play?

Q: Ira, the race for the final playoff spot is over. The Heat are now officially in a dog fight with Atlanta, and Toronto. The way the Heat are playing a Nos. 9-10 play-in game against the Bulls is very possible. – Joel, Fort Lauderdale.

A: I don’t know about “very” possible. But it certainly is within the realm that the Heat could fall from No. 7 and have to travel for the start of the play-in round on April 11 to either Atlanta or Toronto. These next two games will be telling, at home Saturday against the reeling Dallas Mavericks and then next week’s start of a three-game trip against the Detroit Pistons. Take care of those two, and they should be well enough positioned going into their final three. Of course taking care of business and 2022-23 Miami Heat have been almost contrasting terms. Nothing can be assumed. Just as nothing can be taken for granted.

Q: How long before Erik Spoelstra and Pat Riley acknowledge that the decision to sign Kevin Love was a mistake and sit him down and bring back Caleb Martin into the starting lineup? – Joel.

A: I’m not sure that process didn’t start on Wednesday, when Kevin Love played just 16:14, his shortest stint as a member of the Heat. Such an approach might be the best way to spare Kevin any indignities of a benching, while also getting more productive players on the court. Now, when it comes to postseason starting lineups, that’s when all bets are off, with Erik Spoelstra routinely reevaluating for the postseason.

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Q: The best thing that could come out of this season is a lottery pick. Unfortunately, the Heat are probably too good for that. They are mostly likely just good enough to get blown out in the first round. But, there is always lottery hope. – Andrew, Coral Gables.

A: But remember, if a team is eliminated in the play-in round, they then are seeded into the lottery. And, yes, the Heat do own their first-round pick in June. But such a lottery seed would come with minimal opportunity to move up from draft placement in the early-to-mid teens.


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