NBA Playoff tracker: Heat clinch playoff berth behind Bam Adebayo, send Celtics to likely play-in fate

·6-min read

Yahoo Sports will keep you updated nightly on the NBA playoff race during the last two weeks of the regular season. Check back daily for the latest movement in the standings, what to watch for and teams securing their 2020-21 playoff berths.

Tuesday's standings

Eastern Conference

1. Philadelphia 76ers (47-22)

2. Brooklyn Nets (45-24, 2 GB)

3. Milwaukee Bucks (44-25, 3 GB)

4. Atlanta Hawks (38-31, 9 GB)

5. Miami Heat (38-31, 9 GB)

6. New York Knicks (38-31, 9 GB)

Play-in tournament

7. Boston Celtics (35-34, 12 GB)

8. Charlotte Hornets (33-36, 14 GB)

9. Indiana Pacers (33-36, 14 GB)

10. Washington Wizards (32-37, 15 GB)

On the playoff bubble

11. Chicago Bulls (29-40, 18 GB)

Western Conference

1. Utah Jazz (50-19)

2. Phoenix Suns (48-21, 2 GB)

3. Los Angeles Clippers (46-23, 4 GB)

4. Denver Nuggets (45-24, 5 GB)

5. Portland Trail Blazers (40-29, 10 GB)

6. Dallas Mavericks (40-29, 10 GB)

Play-in tournament

7. Los Angeles Lakers (39-30, 11 GB)

8. Golden State Warriors (37-33, 13.5 GB)

9. Memphis Grizzlies (36-33, 14 GB)

10. San Antonio Spurs (33-35, 16.5 GB)

On the playoff bubble

11. New Orleans Pelicans (31-38, 19 GB)

12. Sacramento Kings (31-38, 19 GB)

Game of the night: Heat lock up playoff berth, send Celtics to uncertain fate

What seemed likely before became certain on Tuesday when the Miami Heat scored their second straight win over the Boston Celtics. 

With the 129-121 win, the Heat improved to 38-31, securing their place in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The win gave the Heat a three-game cushion and the tiebreaker over the 35-34 Celtics with three games remaining in the regular season. 

Miami is ensured of no worse than sixth place in the conference, which protects it from the dreaded play-in tournament. The Celtics, meanwhile, are all but bound for the play-in. Their only hope of eclipsing the No. 7 seed is to win their remaining three games while the Knicks lose the rest of theirs.

Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo, left, drives to the basket past Boston Celtics center Tristan Thompson
The Heat and Celtics are headed in opposite directions. (AP/Charles Krupa)

Bam pleads his DPOY case

Bam Adebayo powered Tuesday's win with 22 points, seven rebounds, five assists, two blocks and a steal. After the game, he made his case for Defensive Player of the Year. 

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The Heat are getting hot at the right time, having won six of their last seven games and 10 of their last 13. If the playoffs started Tuesday, they'd be matched up with the Milwaukee Bucks, the team they stunned in the second round of the playoffs last season to spark their unlikely run to the NBA Finals. In short, Heat stock is surging.

Boston, meanwhile, is headed in the opposite direction. Losers of three straight and seven of their last 10, the Celtics are assured of a play-in berth, but little more. To make matters worse, Boston will play its remaining games without All-Star forward Jaylen Brown, who's been ruled out for the rest of the season with a torn ligament in his left wrist. 

What to watch Wednesday 

Portland Trail Blazers at Utah Jazz, 9:30 p.m. ET

The Utah Jazz were given some breathing room — thanks to the Suns losing on Tuesday night — but their matchup with the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday is undoubtedly the best one of the day.

And, perhaps more importantly, key for both of their playoff pushes.

The Jazz are two games ahead of the Phoenix Suns in the top spot in the Western Conference with three games left on their schedule. The Jazz officially ruled out Mike Conley with a hamstring injury and announced that Donovan Mitchell won’t return in the regular season after the ankle injury he suffered last month.

Portland is currently in the middle of a tight three-way battle with the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers for the fifth and sixth seeds in the West. The Mavericks and Trail Blazers are tied up with the same record, though Portland owns the tiebreaker, and both teams are just one game ahead of the Lakers.

A win over the Jazz, especially with Conely and Mitchell out of the picture, would help Portland to avoid that play-in spot.

Performance of the night: Andrew Wiggins drops 38 to top Suns

During an off night for Stephen Curry, Andrew Wiggins delivered.

Wiggins put up 38 points while shooting an impressive 17-of-24 from the field to lead the Golden State Warriors past the Phoenix Suns 122-116 — which marked their sixth win in seven games.

Now, Curry still finished with 21 points on the night but went a shocking 1-of-11 from behind the arc. Wiggins more than made up for it. He dropped 21 of his 38 points in the first half on 10-of-13 shooting, and had another 13 in the fourth quarter too — all while helping to hold Phoenix to just 18 points as a team in that period to secure the six point win.

“He’s answered the bell,” Draymond Green said of Wiggins, via the San Francisco Chronicle’s Connor Letourneau. “Tonight, man he was incredible.”

One last thing

LeBron James should finally return to the court for the Lakers on Wednesday.

James, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Dave McMenamin, is targeting a return for their matchup with the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night in Los Angeles.

James missed six weeks with a high right ankle sprain he suffered against the Atlanta Hawks in March. He did return briefly for two games, but has now missed their last five while resting his ankle. He has reportedly made “considerable improvement” in his workouts and was a full participant in practice on Monday.

“It is sort of a soft plan for him to play tomorrow,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said Tuesday, via ESPN. “He’s going to do some more rehab work today and we’ll evaluate the response to that work tomorrow.”

While his absence has hurt— they are now targeting a spot in the play-in tournament — James’ return is much needed for the Lakers with just three games left in the regular season. If it goes well, he could even lead them out of the play-in.

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