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9:00 AM PT10:00 AM MT11:00 AM CT12:00 PM ET16:00 GMT0:00 9:00 AM MST11:00 AM EST20:00 UAE18:0012:00 ET11:00 AM CT15:00 , April 7, 2019
Scotiabank Arena, Toronto, Ontario  Attendance: 19,800

Heat hold onto playoff hopes vs. Raptors

(Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Miami Heat will visit the Toronto Raptors Sunday afternoon needing a win because they are involved in a tight race for an Eastern Conference playoff berth.

The Heat remained ninth -- one place removed from the playoffs -- after their 111-109 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves Friday night.

Yet, by winning their final three games of the season, starting in Toronto, they would reach the postseason. They hold several key tiebreakers.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra feels the experience is valuable for a young team that will be without retiring star Dwyane Wade next season.

"You want to win in the playoffs, you have to learn how to win pressure games and games with expectation and consequences during the regular season," Spoelstra said. "This can't feel any more like the playoffs right now. Our backs are fully against the wall. I just think this is an awesome experience for our team. You have to embrace this and find a way to rise to the challenge. Is it playing out perfectly in the way any of us would have wanted? It never does in the playoffs, so you might as well get used to it right now."

The Raptors are also coming off a road loss, 113-111 to the Charlotte Hornets, another team trying to make the playoffs, on a 3-pointer by Jeremy Lamb with 3.3 seconds remaining. Lamb also beat the Raptors in Toronto with a desperation game-ending 3-pointer from mid-court two weeks ago.

The Raptors occupy the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference and are preparing to face the No. 7 seed in the first round of playoffs. They await the identity of their opponent.

"I look at it all the time, but it's kind of pointless, really," Raptors coach Nick Nurse said recently. "You have no idea who it's going to be. You start thinking, 'That's what it's going to look like,' and you look at the schedule -- 'Oh, that's a little bit more' -- and it just changes and moves and shifts back and goes one way (and) comes back the other. But we've got to look at (the possibilities) because it kind of comes up on you quick. Once the season ends, you've got to figure out who you play, and then you have to get to work. It's a pretty short window to get ready for that first game -- so I'm looking a little bit but my assistants are looking a little harder right now."

The Raptors lead the season series with the Heat 3-0. The Raptors matched their franchise record of 21 3-pointers in their 125-104 victory on March 10 at Miami. The difference was the 3-pointers because the teams each made 42 field goals.

The Heat's loss to the Timberwolves on Friday came down to the final seconds when Wade's potential game-winning 3-point attempt just missed. The past three Heat losses have been decided in the last seconds of the game.

Heat forward Justise Winslow said the team is not that far off.

"It's a lot of fun, man," he said. "Our backs are against the wall. I'm excited for the challenge. I'm not holding my head down. We still have a possibility to make the playoffs. So I'm locked in right now."

"You get to this point of the season, it's unpredictable," Spoelstra said. "It's how you respond to it and that's all. We just have to stay together and focus on the next game."

--Field Level Media

Updated April 7, 2019

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