Pacers and Chicago Bulls grab final National Basketball Association play-off places at Miami's expense

With Miami's playoff hopes resting on Brooklyn's ability to beat the Bulls Wednesday night, first-year Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson opted to sit Brook Lopez, Jeremy Lin and Trevor Booker in the hopes of evaluating his younger, less-proven players. Three other players-Quincy Acy, Joe Harris, and Sean Kilpatrick-are sitting out due to injury. If the Bulls win, they're in. With a win tonight, they have an opportunity to complete the season sweep. Cleveland took Toronto down in six games in last year's Eastern Conference finals. The Bulls, the No. 8 seed, will open the playoffs Sunday night against No. 1 seed Boston Celtics. The Wizards have gone 6-4 in their last 10 games and are 19-21 away from the Verizon Center this season. In their last five games, the Heat are putting up 109.8 points per game while allowing 107 on defense.

Jimmy Butler has scored 20 or more points in each of his last six games against the Nets (27.5 ppg), including a game-high 33 when the teams met on Saturday. Rookie guard Sheldon McClellan, recalled from the National Basketball Association D-League Rio Grande Valley Vipers on Tuesday, scored 18 points.

That thought was of little consolation to the coach and players who wanted to punctuate their record breaking turnaround by playing more than the standard 82 game schedule. "We want Melo!" chants broke out. "Coming out here being out here for a full season; and then you know just on the court the way obviously we came in with a new playbook, we pretty much had to work from the ground up and build a foundation on the floor as well as culture-wise in the locker room".

Miami did beat Washington Wednesday, meaning the Heat would have qualified if Brooklyn had put forth a winning effort against the Bulls.

Miami needed a win, and either a loss by IN or Chicago, to reach the postseason. But Indiana soon righted the ship and cruised to victory to earn the No. 7 seed.

Willie Reed scored 16, Josh Richardson had 15 and James Johnson scored 12 for Miami.

CELTICS 112 bt BUCKS 94 - Gerald Green scored 18 points and Boston emerged with the top seed for the Eastern Conference playoffs after beating Milwaukee. They will face Cleveland in the opening round.

MVP candidate Russell Westbrook played only 18 minutes and had five points, eight assists and five rebounds for the Thunder.

The Mavericks won despite leaving starters Dirk Nowitzki, Harrison Barnes and Wesley Matthews at home. I'll be as interested as anybody to see how these talks progress as far as how teams go about resting their players. Hassan Whiteside's three-point play and Josh Richardson's 3-pointer keyed the spurt that increased Miami's lead to 64-50.

Westbrook was on pace for another triple-double at halftime with eight assists, five points and five rebounds in 18 minutes before Coach Billy Donovan chose to rest him for the second half. They followed a 47-point win over the Orlando Magic on Monday night with a 39-point drubbing of the Nets, which made them the first club since the New York Knicks in 1994 to win back-to-back games by at least 39 points.

The Clippers nicked it with their seventh straight win, a 115-95 victory over the Sacramento Kings, which rendered Utah's 101-97 triumph over the San Antonio Spurs meaningless.

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