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ASK IRA: For Heat, no excuses now when it comes to Blazers and Wizards up next

Q: Ira, the Heat had two chances to win one game to make the playoffs last season in the play-in, and those chances were against the Hawks and Bulls. Now they’re staring at Joel Embiid and the 76ers in the first play-in game, perhaps on the road, and maybe a hot team after that, with the winner getting the Celtics. This is bad, very bad. – Allan.

A: So first exhale, because there still is a very real race with the 76ers and Pacers for that No. 6 seed and automatic berth in the best-of-seven first round of the playoffs. What I would say is this, if the Heat drop either of the next two, then, by all means, commence the sky-is-falling rhetoric. You can’t lose at home to the Trail Blazers or lose for the second time in a month to the Wizards. Get those two and you not only might regain some footing, but you also might regain some of the sidelined players in the process, as well. Drop either and, well, play-in tickets will go on sale soon enough at an outlet near you – but this time perhaps for only one home play-in game.

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Q: Caleb Martin, gawd. Maybe stop shooting. – Sid.

A: And in a typical situation I would agree. But with Duncan Robinson, Tyler Herro and Kevin Love out, who exactly do you want shooting the shots? Beyond Haywood Highsmith making shots, lately there hasn’t been anyone. And at least with Caleb Martin shooting the shots, it also means he is on the floor to play defense, That, alone, makes him a better option than Patty Mills.

Q: Might as well reduce the season down to 70 games along with players’ contracts. If I would’ve called in sick this much when I was working, I would have been fired. Granted, they play a physical game. Then why 82 games with a long postseason? – Pipsy.

A: Except this way the league can still get 82 games of revenue. And the Heat still have listed every game as sellout, meaning whether all their players are available or not, they still are selling all of their tickets. Also, the television ratings still are such that they can support an 82-game product during the regular season. It’s almost as if, as a fan, you have to accept that you will see the complete product only some of the time. It’s certainly not as if the 65-game requirement for NBA postseason awards has changed much if anything.