The Miami Heat are focused on defending their NBA championship, not on their regular-season finale with Orlando. The Magic, meanwhile, have a lot to gain in their final contest.
Orlando tries to improve its chances for a higher seed on Wednesday when it hosts the Heat, whose starters will likely see reduced time.
The Magic (39-42) are headed back to the playoffs for the first time since 2002-03, when they lost to Detroit in seven games in the first round. They are currently in the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference, which would earn them another meeting with the Pistons, but a recent surge has them in contention for the seventh seed.
Orlando has won three straight games and five of its last six, including a 95-89 victory over the Washington Wizards on Tuesday. The Magic can take the No. 7 seed with a victory over Miami combined with a Washington loss to Indiana on Wednesday.
“From a professional standpoint, it’s very rewarding and gratifying to play in April and have these games mean something,” said Magic guard Grant Hill, who scored 13 points. “Just six weeks ago, it didn’t look like we were going to get in. We focused, we got serious, we started playing with a purpose and we put it together.”
Hedo Turkoglu scored 26 points Tuesday and Dwight Howard recorded 17 points and 12 rebounds, but the Magic lost backup center Darko Milicic to a sprained right ankle. He’ll have an MRI on Wednesday and his status is uncertain for the playoff opener this weekend.
Staying healthy is the top priority for Miami (44-37), which has wrapped up the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference and is now simply waiting to see whether it will meet Chicago or Cleveland in the first round. The Heat defeated the Bulls in six games in the opening round last season en route to their first NBA title.
“Coach has really gotten us focusing on things we need to try to work on right now to face whoever we’re going to play in the playoffs,” Heat swingman Eddie Jones said. “Don’t get it wrong. We know we have a game (Wednesday) night in Orlando, but we also know the fact that the playoffs are a totally bigger stage and we have to be ready for it.”
Miami had 14 players available at practice Tuesday, with the exception of James Posey, who sprained his left wrist and shoulder in Monday’s 91-89 defeat to the Boston Celtics. Posey is expected to be ready when the playoffs begin.
Miami’s top two scorers, Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal, have both battled significant injuries this season and will likely see little time Wednesday, but coach Pat Riley wouldn’t specify who will be on the court.
“What’s important is getting ready for the playoffs, getting them healthy and conditioned and mentally ready and focused for the playoffs,” Riley said. “That’s one of the reasons they were on the bike before practice today and on the bike after practice. … They may. They may not.”
Concluding their regular season on the road - where they are 17-23 this season - will be good playoff preparation for the Heat. Miami won’t have home-court advantage in the first round because its record is worse than the Bulls and the Cavaliers.
The Magic have won all three meetings in the season series.