Defeat by Magic dents Heat's home-court chances

ORLANDO • Home-court advantage in the first round of the National Basketball Association play-offs may be slipping away from the Miami Heat. With three regular-season games remaining, there is no more room for error.

The Orlando Magic, long ago out of the play-off chase, beat the Heat 112-109 on Friday, dropping their in-state rivals into a tie for fifth place in the tightly-packed Eastern Conference race.

The Heat (46-33) still could finish anywhere from third to sixth. Only the top four teams receive home-court advantage.

"Home court is really important to get," veteran Heat forward Joe Johnson said after scoring 13 points. "If you plan on advancing, it certainly helps to get a Game 7 on your home court. This loss hurts."

The Heat finish the season with a home game against the Magic, then road games with the Detroit Pistons and Boston Celtics.

HOME COURT A BIG HELP

Home court is really important to get. If you plan on advancing, it certainly helps to get a Game 7 on your home court. This loss hurts.

JOE JOHNSON, Miami Heat forward, on playing at home in the play-offs.

The Magic were led by centre Nikola Vucevic with 29 points and six rebounds. He also nailed the game-winning dunk with 20 seconds remaining.

Forward Evan Fournier had 28 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. He hit 12 of 15 free throws and seven of 12 from the field in one of his better shooting nights.

The Magic (34-45) snapped the Heat's two-game winning streak, which had raised the Heat's hopes of finishing the season third or fourth in the Eastern Conference.

Point guard Elfrid Payton had 16 points and 10 assists for the Magic. Victor Oladipo had 13 points while rookie Mario Hezonja added nine.

The Heat were led by Dwyane Wade with 17 points. Goran Dragic had 15 points and eight assists. Hassan Whiteside contributed 13 points, 16 rebounds and three blocked shots.

Orlando led 111-109 after Vucevic's dunk that followed a game-tying three-pointer by Johnson with 30 seconds left. Fournier hit one of two free throws with 2.9 seconds remaining to claim the win.

"If we don't have home-court advantage, oh well. We start on the road," Wade said. "You have to win on the road if you are going to be considered a good team."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 10, 2016, with the headline 'Defeat by Magic dents Heat's home-court chances'. Print Edition | Subscribe