The Miami Heat picked up a 99-93 win over the Detroit Pistons in the penultimate game of the regular season on Tuesday.
With the win, Miami now has the same record as the Atlanta Hawks, and is a full game ahead of both the Boston Celtics and Charlotte Hornets. With the tiebreaker factored in, the Heat currently hold the third-seed in the Eastern Conference.
Miami entered the contest knowing it controlled its own destiny. Two wins to end the year would guarantee the Heat finish as the third seed in the East. That would allow the Heat to open the playoffs at home, which is critical to the team's title hopes. Miami can also finish third even with a loss on Wednesday, though it'd make the path slightly tougher and require an Atlanta loss.
Working against Miami was the fact that Detroit needed this game as well. Rather than simply playing a spoiler role such as the Orlando Magic did recently, Detroit had plenty to play for. The Pistons could have potentially avoided a first-round series against the Cleveland Cavaliers with a strong finish to their season.
The fact that both teams needed this game was evident by the highly competitive first half. Miami and Detroit would head into the locker room at the half tied at 50 and the game remained close throughout.
As has been the case lately, Miami had a team-win with several players contributing. All five starters went into double-digits in points and had similar totals. Joe Johnson would lead the way with his 25 points to go along with five assists. Johnson was busy in the fourth quarter to help Miami put the game away.
The Heat will close out the regular season on Wednesday in Boston against the Celtics at 8 p.m.