ASK IRA: Has NBA play-in proven too generous to teams at bottom (and unfair to Heat)?

Q: In my opinion the Nos. 9 and 10 seeds are not playoff worthy, so why include them and make the Nos. 7 and 8 seeds suffer the dubious play-in machinations? Is the NBA really that hard up for cash? – Ray, Deerfield Beach.

A: Hard up? I’m not sure that isn’t overstating things. But they have found a system that keeps at least 20, and actually more, teams engaged until the final days of the season, if not the final day. The play-in isn’t going anywhere, it creates televised theater of meaning. The difference is that in the Western Conference, you have play-in teams all at least 10 games over .500 (as the Heat are). In the East, you have the 39-43 Bulls and the 36-46 Hawks.

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Q: Ira, I’m not disappointed because we didn’t get help on Sunday. You shouldn’t need to get help. I’m disappointed about how they say they are ready for the 76ers, as if they’ve shown that. – Eddie.

A: To me there is a subset of games on the NBA schedule, one that shows how you stand up to pressure and expectation. The Heat’s three most recent games in that regard were against the Mavericks, Pacers and 76ers. Loss. Loss. Loss. Yes, there was a moment the game before that when the Heat took care of business against the Knicks. But sustained quality has not been an element for the Heat almost the entire season. But when they have stepped up, it often has been on the road. So perhaps they need the odds stacked as the ultimate wakeup call. And that ultimate wakeup call arrives Wednesday at Wells Fargo Center.

Q: What do you think about Tyler Herro? He appears to have found his groove. – David.

A: That has been a bright spot for the Heat lately, and the reality is that if Jimmy Butler does not reach another level from what he has shown in recent weeks, then it will require some of the best of Tyler Herro. While we mostly remember the Heat losing Tyler Herro for the balance of the postseason in the first playoff game last season, against the Bucks, he does have play-in experience. He scored 26 points in last season’s play-in loss to the Hawks, but then just 12 in the play-in victory over the Bulls. The Heat need him to at least be somewhat close to Tyrese Maxey’s scoring pace on Wednesday night.