HeatIn the era of Tank-a-Palooza, there are plenty of truly awful games littered throughout the NBA season. This season’s lowlight factory included four “showdowns” between the Knicks and 76ers, and the Timberwolves and Lakers — owners of the four worst records in the NBA. Add in the inter-conference games involving those teams, and you have a dozen games that only the mothers of the players involved could bear to watch.

Yet, somehow, none of those games will rival Wednesday night’s guaranteed turd muffin between the Miami Heat and the aforementioned Sixers. If the Heat lose, they are assured the tenth-worst record in the NBA, which is important considering their first round pick in the 2015 draft is only Top 10 protected. If it falls to #11 (or worse), the Heat have to hand it over to — wait for it — Philadelphia (more on that in a second).

That’s a nice incentive for the Sixers, right? Except the Sixers aren’t thinking only in those terms, as a loss tonight — combined with a Knicks win — also moves them into a tie with the Knicks for the second-worst record in the NBA and better odds in the lottery. Considering the Knicks have, inexplicably, decided to win games these days, this is a definite possibility. So, the Sixers have a double incentive to lose.

Getting back to the Heat, here’s the real reason they can’t afford to lose: a Heat win — combined with a Nets loss — creates a tie (with the Nets) for the tenth-worst record, and their draft position is decided by a coin flip. In other words, barring a lottery miracle (i.e., a team ranked 12-14 lands a top 3 pick), the 10th an 11th picks will come down to a 50-50 proposition. If the Heat lose, all they have to worry about is some team pulling a Chicago-in-2008 (exceptionally rare). The surest bet for the Heat is a loss tonight — and the only thing surer than that is that this game is gonna be U-G-L-Y.

[photo: Issac Baldizon]