Picking the last of 58 wins out of 82 tries is a strange way to analyze these things, but if you look at Miami's final game of the regular season, you can point to bench also-rans Eddie House and Jamaal Magliore and give them the credit for the Heat earning home-court advantage over Dallas in the NBA Finals. Because had those two not contributed mightily to a win over the Toronto Raptors during the last day of the regular season, Dallas would have tied with Miami's record and earned home-court advantage because the Mavs swept Miami in two tries this year.
For all the talk of how far the Miami Heat have come since seemingly dropping every single close game that it could at the midpoint of the season, it's important to remember that, much later in the regular season, Dallas' reputation was even lower. Even George Karl also (kind of) went on record saying that his Denver Nuggets (who eventually became first-round fodder for Oklahoma City) would prefer to play the older Mavs in the first round, rather than OKC. And this was in April. On top of that, the majority of analysts that we saw picked the Trail Blazers to top the Mavs in the first round.
But the Miami Heat? Yeah, they saw this coming. Or, they'd like to pat themselves on the back and swear that they saw it coming. Come on guys! You were watching the scoreboard races. We all know it.
"We knew at the time that if we won that game, it would put us in position to have home-court advantage against most teams," Magloire said. "To us, it was very significant."
House scored a career-high 35 points that night, fueled by an 8-of-9 shooting effort in the first quarter. Magloire grabbed 19 rebounds, the most by anyone coming off the bench in an NBA game this season. Howard scored 18 points, his highest total in four years. And the Heat outscored Toronto 27-10 in the fourth quarter for a 97-79 win.
James, Wade and Bosh got the night off, resting up since the playoffs were starting in less than 72 hours.
"That's what our team is all about," James said. "Eddie House and Big Cat (Magloire) don't have a big role in this playoff run, but when we sat out that last game to rest for the playoffs, those guys stepped in. Eddie shooting the ball extremely well and going for 30-plus. Big Cat having almost 20 rebounds. They won that game for us to be put in this position if we faced Dallas in the finals. That's just our team."
I'm sorry, but no. The Heat owned that game because Toronto gave up in the second half. In fact, I'm surprised Miami didn't win by more, because the Raptors were going through the motions in the first half as well. And House and Mags went off because they're pretty fair basketball players working against a Raptors team that didn't care. For the Mavericks (or, as Magliore puts it, "most teams") to be thought of as one final hurdle to get over before the postseason started … come on. THEY WEREN'T THINKING ABOUT THE MAVERICKS.
They were thinking, "sweet, free shots." Magliore was playing in his home country. House can shoot the lights out, especially against the human pylons from Toronto. It was a chance to play NBA ball after sitting for most of the season, and before a postseason that would see the team's already-short rotation cut down even further.
But as a "this is what it came down to" story? This works exceedingly well. Sure, a loss in November counts as much as a win on the last day of the season, but had the Raptors (and, really, the Raptors had the talent to beat Miami's second unit, especially at home) even bothered to show up, Game 1 would be tipping off in Dallas on Tuesday.
Then again, had the Mavericks' first unit minus Dirk taken down Toronto in December, things might be tipping off in Dallas on Tuesday. See how far we can take this?
Games need to start, soon.