(The Sports Xchange) - Home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs 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 playoff chase, beat the Heat, 112-109 Friday night, dropping their in-state rival 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 Friday night. “If you plan on advancing, it certainly helps to get a Game 7 on your home court. This loss hurt.”
The Heat finish the season with a home game Sunday against the Magic, then road games with the Pistons and Celtics.
The Magic were led by center 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 their hopes of finishing the season in third or fourth place in the Eastern Conference.
Point guard Elfrid Payton had 16 points and 10 assists for the Magic. Victor Oladipo, who left the game late in the third quarter with a cut over his left eye, had 13 points. Rookie Mario Hezonja added nine points.
The Heat (46-33) 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.
The Magic led 111-109 after Vucevic’s dunk that followed a game-tying 3-pointer by Johnson with 30 seconds left. Fournier hit one of two free throws with 2.9 seconds remaining.
“If we don’t have home court advantage, oh well. We start on the road,” Wade said.
“If we don’t win enough games to get home court, you still have a playoff series to play. You have to win on the road if you are going to be considered a good team. Once the regular season is over, you move on to the next season, the playoffs.”