MIAMI -- After the 80th Miami Heat game of the season, Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem had so many ice bags strapped to their bodies in the postgame training room that coach Erik Spoelstra did a double-take.
So for the 82nd and final game, Spoelstra -- mindful of seeing his captains packed in ice -- gave them the night off.
Let the playoff preparations begin.
Although Wade said he wasn't being held back by any injury, he, Haslem and Jermaine O'Neal all sat out Wednesday's game against the New Jersey Nets. The move wasn't surprising even though the game had plenty of meaning for the Heat, who came into the final day not yet knowing if they're heading to Atlanta or Boston for the first two games of the playoffs.
"We legitimately have guys that are banged up and they can really use this rest," Spoelstra said. "If this extra day can help, if at all, it really was an easy decision. I think this day, today, was critical. They're spending a lot of time, not only resting but getting treatment."
James Jones was slotted into the lineup in Wade's place. Joel Anthony started again for O'Neal, who has been bothered by ankle and knee problems for the past couple weeks. Haslem is Miami's top reserve.
Wade said it was a "mutual" decision to give him the night off. He will finish the year as the league's fifth-leading scorer, at 26.6 points per game.
"I mean, it's a great season," Wade said. "One more game left. It's going to be a good night to give a lot of guys an opportunity to play that's worked very hard. Now we can prepare for the playoffs, something that we're all excited about."
The Heat will finish the season as either the No. 5 or No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference. A win over the Nets on Wednesday would lock up No. 5, sending Miami into a first-round series against the Celtics.
Should Miami fall to No. 6, it would face Atlanta in the first round for the second straight season. The Hawks won in seven games a year ago.
"Guys are banged up," O'Neal said. "I mean, guys have been playing over the last month with multiple injuries and stuff like that, so I think it's important to get ready. The people that are questioning the rest, how would they feel if somebody went out there tonight and got hurt and couldn't play in the first round? I think we have a team that has enough rhythm to play. "
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press
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