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  • MIAMI — The Oklahoma City Thunder can clinch a playoff spot with a win on Monday night over the host Miami Heat at AmericanAirlines Arena.

    The Heat (43-37) are already in the playoffs Raiders Kolton Miller Jersey , but they are coming off a brutal 122-98 loss to the New York Knicks on Friday and, six days before that, a loss to the Brooklyn Nets in overtime.

    In other words, the Heat — who are 4-4 in their past eight games — are not riding into the playoffs with great momentum. They have two tough games to close out the regular season, against the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Toronto Raptors this week.

    Miami’s opening-round Eastern Conference playoff opponent will be Toronto, the Boston Celtics, the Philadelphia 76ers or the Cleveland Cavaliers.

    Meanwhile, the Thunder (46-34) can finish anywhere between fourth or eighth in the wild Western Conference. Failing to make the playoffs is also a possibility.

    On Saturday, the Thunder helped themselves by prevailing 108-102 over the host Houston Rockets, who have the best record in the NBA.

    Russell Westbrook and Paul George scored 24 points each as Houston’s 20-game home win streak was snapped.

    “This game was important,” Thunder forward Carmelo Anthony said. “But if we don’t take care of business on Monday, then this game didn’t really mean anything.”

    A desperate Thunder team will likely be a major challenge for the Heat, who have muddled through with a 14-15 record since Feb. 1 Authentic Jeremy Kerley Jersey , playing below-.500 basketball for two-plus months.

    The Heat are 2-1 against the Celtics this season, 1-2 against the Cavaliers, 2-2 against the 76ers and 1-1 against the Raptors, and Miami players feel like they will have a legitimate chance against any opponent.

    But closing the regular season in strong fashion — starting with Oklahoma City on Monday — is the first priority.

    “You want to go into the playoffs on a high note,” Heat shooting guard Dwyane Wade said. “You don’t want to go into the playoffs losing three games in a row. You want to go in feeling good about yourself.”

    The Heat and the Thunder are healthy for Monday’s game. Guards Andre Roberson (Thunder) and Dion Waiters (Heat) have been out long term, but everyone else will be available.

    The Heat will hope to slow down Westbrook, whose scoring is down by about six points per game from last season. Still, he has exceptional numbers when compared with almost every other player in the league, averaging 25.6 points and 9.8 rebounds while leading the league with 10.1 assists per game.

    George is second on the team with a 21.6 scoring average. Anthony, who turns 34 next month, is averaging a career-low 16.3 points as he is no longer his team’s primary scoring option.

    Oklahoma City’s fourth double-figure scorer is center Steven Adams, who is averaging 13.9 points and is second on the team in rebounds (behind Westbrook) with 9.1 boards per game.

    Point guard Goran Dragic leads the Heat in scoring (17.5) and assists (4.8). Center Hassan Whiteside leads the team in rebounds (11.5) and blocks (1.7) while averaging 14.0 points per game.

    On the wings, the Heat has several capable scorers Connor Williams Jersey , led by Josh Richardson, Tyler Johnson, Wade and Wayne Ellington. All four score in double figures on average. In fact, Miami has nine double-figure scorers — five more than the Thunder, who rely on a superstar approach.

    John Beilein says he was never offered the Detroit Pistons‘ coaching job.

     

    ”I never really had to make the decision,” the Michigan coach said. ”That would have been a tough one.”

    Beilein is now looking ahead to another season of college basketball after briefly emerging as a candidate for the Pistons. Not long after the news broke about Beilein’s talks with Detroit, he said he’d be back at Michigan . The Pistons eventually hired Dwane Casey earlier this month.

    On Tuesday, Beilein held a news conference to talk about the offseason. He led Michigan to the national title game this year before falling to Villanova, so the possibility of losing Beilein to the NBA was a jolt to Wolverines fans.

    ”I was not offered the job by the Pistons,” Beilein said. ”We certainly had some mutual interest. I think they had a great candidate in Dwane Casey.”

    Beilein said he was intrigued by the possibility of coaching in the game’s top league.

    ”I love coaching basketball a lot, and you’re watching the NBA playoffs, and you’re seeing what guys are doing, and you’re looking Bills Trent Murphy Jersey , like, they’re running stuff that we run,” Beilein said. ”I don’t know if they watched us or I watched them. You can see, boy, if you have really highly skilled players – (Boston Celtics coach) Brad Stevens kept telling me, `I’m having a blast.’ When you hear those words, and your season’s over – so that was appealing.”

    With the Pistons’ search behind him, Beilein can prepare for the 2018-19 season with the Wolverines. Michigan announced Tuesday that the team will go on a tour of Spain from Aug. 17-26 that will include exhibition games.

    The Wolverines lost star big man Moe Wagner early to the NBA, but some key players return from what was one of the best defensive teams in the nation. Charles Matthews, Zavier Simpson, Jordan Poole and Isaiah Livers will be joined by what is expected to be a strong group of new recruits.

    So Beilein has plenty to look forward to at the college level, and he indicated there might not be any more flirtations with the NBA.

    ”I think that I ran that race, and you can’t run that race too many times Authentic Fernando Rodney Jersey ,” he said. ”I don’t know what I would have done, but I was really impressed with everybody in that organization, and I’ll be rooting for them like I always have.”

    The other interesting bit of recent news that at least partially involved the Michigan basketball program was Chris Webber’s appearance with Wolverines football coach Jim Harbaugh on WTKA last week. Harbaugh asked Webber to be an honorary captain for the football team next season, and Webber sounded amenable to the idea.

    A return to Ann Arbor by Webber – even if it’s for football – would be a big deal. He led the Michigan basketball team to the Final Four in 1992 and 1993, but a federal investigation revealed that a booster gave Webber and three other players more than $600,000 while they were student-athletes, and the NCAA forced the school to dissociate from them until 2013.

    ”There was five or six years where I was limited what I could say about that era. Since the ban’s been off, I’ve reached out to Chris several times,” Beilein said. ”I continue to do that, and we’re going to continue to try and build bridges and just really work at making sure there’s a lot of healing going forward. … I want every player that ever played here to feel like he’s a part of that building, including Chris and anyone else.”

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