(Reuters) – The Miami Heat completed a stirring second half to the NBA regular season by setting a new milestone on Wednesday but their brilliance was not rewarded with a playoff berth as the growing trend of resting players took on extra significance.
The Heat were the victims this time, their season drawing to a close earlier than they would have preferred despite a 110-102 victory over the Washington Wizards.
Miami made an awful start to the campaign and were 11-30 at the halfway mark, but the Heat became the first team to rally from more than 12 games below .500 and avoid a losing record.
They finished 41-41 and needed either the Chicago Bulls or Indiana Pacers to lose their final games to reach the playoffs.
The Bulls, however, breezed to a 112-73 victory against a Brooklyn Nets team missing six players, while the Pacers cruised to a 104-86 win over the playoff-bound Atlanta Hawks, who rested five players ahead of the post-season.
“The league has got to step in here, because this is a very big black eye for this league,” former NBA Coach of the Year Hubie Brown said during the Indiana-Atlanta game.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver has expressed concern at the practice of resting so many players, but apart from promising to schedule teams to play less games on consecutive days, it has offered few other answers on how to solve the problem.
Boston clinched the top seed in the East, ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers, who lost their last four games, playing the final two without LeBron James and Kyrie Irving.
In the Western Conference, there was nothing at stake on Wednesday except for home court advantage for the series between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz.
The Clippers had to win their game against Sacramento to clinch the fourth seed ahead of Utah, and they did so easily, 115-95.
Match-ups for the first round of the playoffs.
Boston (1) v Chicago (8)
Cleveland (2) v Indiana (7)
Toronto (3) v Milwaukee (6)
Washington (4) v Atlanta (5)
Golden State (1) v Portland (8)
San Antonio (2) v Memphis (7)
Houston (3) v Oklahoma City (6)
Los Angeles Clippers (4) v Utah (5)