Dwyane Wade scored 22 points as the Miami Heat beat the Dallas Mavericks 112-101 Wednesday at American Airlines Center in Dallas.
Luka Doncic had 18 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists for the 26-31 Mavs. The 26-30 Heat broke a three-game losing skid.
Dwyane Wade's Heroics Not Enough to Make Uninspiring Heat Playoff Team
Wade played through an illness on Wednesday, but that didn't matter en route to his efficient 9-of-14 performance from the field. His 22 points came in just 22 minutes.
The 37-year-old guard has been excellent at times this season, with a 22-point outing in a 118-108 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on February 5 serving as proof. He looks like he can play a few more seasons, although he's putting forth an excellent swan song in what will be the last season of his career.
Despite Wade's heroics, however, the Heat look like they're going to finish on the outside looking into the playoff picture.
First, the Heat's schedule down the stretch is brutal. Per Tankathon, the Heat have the seventh-toughest remaining slate. They have a four-game road trip with matchups against the 37-19 Oklahoma City Thunder, 33-26 San Antonio Spurs and 43-14 Milwaukee Bucks. Miami also has two games versus the 43-16 Toronto Raptors, the 37-21 Boston Celtics and the 37-21 Philadelphia 76ers.
Miami's primary competitors for playoff spots have it a bit easier. The Orlando Magic, Washington Wizards and Detroit Pistons have the third-, seventh- and eighth-easiest schedules remaining. The Charlotte Hornets are two spots above the Heat with the fifth-hardest.
Second, Miami will have trouble overcoming its teamwide offensive struggles. The Heat entered Wednesday 25th in the league in offensive efficiency, 27th in field-goal percentage, 26th in points per shot and 24th in adjusted field-goal percentage, per ESPN.com.
No team below Miami in the offensive efficiency category is anywhere close to the playoff picture. The Heat could maybe get by if they were a lights-out defensive team, but they are eighth in the league in defensive efficiency. That's still good, but not good enough to make up for offensive deficiencies.
Third, the Heat may be in for further struggles if the FiveThirtyEight CARMELO forecastis accurate. Via that ranking, Miami is ranked just 24th in the NBA. The Heat are also predicted to finish 36-46, which would put them at 10th in the East.
Granted, it wouldn't be surprising to see Wade put forth a few more performances like the one Wednesday to will the Heat into the playoffs. And Miami is tied for the final playoff spot at the moment with the Detroit Pistons at 26-30.
But the odds look stacked against the Heat for sending Wade off with a postseason berth.
Luka Doncic Makes Mavs Dark Horses for West's Eighth Seed
Granted, the Mavs laid a rare egg at home on Wednesday evening, so putting "playoffs" and "Dallas" in the same sentence may seem odd. And chances are we won't be seeing the Mavericks in the postseason.
However, they definitely aren't out of the race for the Western Conference's No. 8 seed. They're 4.5 games back of the Los Angeles Clippers for the final playoff spot with 25 contests left. The road to the No. 8 seed is improbable, but it isn't impossible.
The Mavs are in any game they play as long as Doncic is on the floor. In his 15 games leading into Wednesday, the 19-year-old averaged 23.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.2 assists per night. He also scored 13 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Mavs to an upset win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday.
Dallas also has some winnable games on their schedule. Granted, Tankathon lists the Mavs with the 11th-toughest slate remaining, but they are playing the now Marc Gasol-less Memphis Grizzlies three times down the stretch. The Mavs also have a game left against the Phoenix Suns and Cleveland Cavaliers, two of the worst teams in the league.
Furthermore, the Mavs have a few things falling into place.
The eighth-place Clips just traded away their best player in Tobias Harris, and they could be in line for regression. The ninth-place Sacramento Kings have three more road games than home contests down the stretch (they are 19-11 at home versus 11-16 on the road) with matchups at the Golden State Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder waiting after the All-Star break.
The 10th-place Lakers, who are 28-29, can't get out of their own way right now and just lost a game to the 19-38 Atlanta Hawks. The 11th-place Timberwolves are a game ahead of Dallas and can be caught.
Ultimately, Dallas doesn't look like a playoff team. But Doncic is emerging as a triple-double machine who can carry the Mavs to the postseason if the teams in front of them falter. It wouldn't be a surprise to see the Mavs in contention in the final week of the regular season with a chance to steal the final spot.
Miami visits the Philadelphia 76ers on February 21. Dallas hosts the Denver Nuggets on February 22.