Miami Heat

Heat edge Hornets to overtake eighth seed for now, but plenty remains unsolved in jumbled East

Hassan Whiteside and Justise Winslow celebrate against the Hornets (NBA Getty Images)

The Charlotte Hornets (29-35) and Miami Heat (30-34) entered Wednesday night's meeting in a virtual tie for eighth place in the Eastern Conference; having won the first two meetings over Miami, Charlotte held the tiebreaker between the two teams.

With fewer than 20 regular-season games remaining, it essentially became a must-win for the Heat.

They rose to the occasion.

Double-doubles from Kelly Olynyk (22 points, 11 rebounds) and Hassan Whiteside (18 points, 15 rebounds) helped Miami grind to a 91-84 win and, more importantly, assume the No. 8 seed in the East.

The Heat now hold a one-game lead over the Hornets and Magic in the standings for the final spot in the playoffs, but the race is far from done; each team plays one another once more this season.

MORE: Why Orlando is a must-watch team

Miami has the potential advantage of being the home team in both games, while Orlando has the potential disadvantage of playing both games on the road. Charlotte travels to take on Miami while it hosts Orlando on the final night of the regular season.

The Race for Eighth in the East
vs. Hornets vs. Heat vs. Magic
Charlotte Hornets - March 17 April 10
Miami Heat March 17 - March 26
Orlando Magic April 10 March 26 -

It's shaping up to be an interesting battle down the final stretch of the season.

So what does that mean for the rest of the conference?

Both the Pistons and Nets earned wins Wednesday night to remain in sixth and seventh place, respectively. If the season were to end today, the No. 6 Pistons would face the No.3 Pacers while the No. 7 Nets would take on the No. 2 Raptors.

MORE: Analyzing Toronto's potential first-round opponents

The Pacers weren't in action Wednesday night, but they were helped by the Bulls, who earned a one-point win over the Sixers.

Philly (41-24) now trails Indiana (42-23) by one full game in the standings, but the two teams square off in a big-time game on Sunday afternoon. As it stands, the No. 4 Sixers would take on the No. 5 Celtics, a rematch of last years Eastern Conference semifinals.

With a little over a month remaining before the playoffs begin, there will is sure to be plenty of moving and shaking in the Eastern Conference standings.

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