WASHINGTON (AP) — LeBron James’ only visible significant role was that of post-game heckler, interrupting Michael Beasley’s interview amid a loose, upbeat locker room that normally wouldn’t jibe with a 21-point loss – or throwing in a towel in the race for a No. 1 seed.
James and Chris Bosh took the night off Monday and the Heat were beaten 114-93 by the Washington Wizards in a no-contest game that guaranteed the Eastern Conference’s top seed for the Indiana Pacers.
So, no disappointment at all?
“There would be no disappointment,” said Dwyane Wade, who played because he needed some minutes after his recent nine-game layoff with a hamstring injury. “When the playoffs start, we have a new season and we will be looking forward to it.”
So the Pacers are locked into a first-round series against the eighth-seeded Atlanta Hawks, while the two-time defending champion Heat get the No. 2 seed and either the Wizards or the Charlotte Bobcats. Miami began the day still in contention for the top spot but they would have needed to win their last two games and have Indiana lose to Orlando on Wednesday because the Pacers hold the head-to-head tiebreaker.
Figuring it would be better to be fresh for the post-season, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra sat two of his Big Three, saying they were dealing with “minor ailments” from “the residual of a long season.”
“It was out of our control. Those guys put in a lot of mileage,” Spoelstra said. “Our schedule was fairly extreme down the stretch. I’ve never been a part of a group that’s played that many games in that few days down the stretch. That’s not an excuse; we want to just make sure our guys are sharp and feeling healthy.”
James has made it part of his annual routine to rest before the playoffs. He missed the final game in 2011 and sat out the last two in both 2012 and 2013.
Washington has made it a point to avoid finishing seventh to keep from having to face the Heat in the first round – knowing full well the cast of characters will be different than it was Monday night.
“We played against a totally different Miami Heat today than usual,” Wizards center Marcin Gortat said. “Nothing to be excited about. … It was more like a scrimmage game than a big battle.”
The Heat were scheduled to meet Philadelphia at AmericanAirlines in downtown Miami Wednesday night in the final regular season game before the playoffs start this weekend.