The Cleveland Cavaliers' spotty play down the stretch left them running out of time to wrap up home-court advantage in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
They finally clinched in their latest game - after time had literally run out.
After a last-second review on Monday allowed them to lock up the East's No. 4 seed, the Cavaliers close out their regular season at home Wednesday against the Central Division champion Detroit Pistons.
Cleveland (45-36) had lost six of nine games between March 22-April 11, and was in danger of allowing hard-charging Washington to wrestle home-court advantage for the teams' first-round series that will begin this weekend.
The Cavaliers struggled to an ugly 84-76 win over Miami on Sunday night, putting them within one win clinching the No. 4 seed. But after falling behind Philadelphia 90-89 in the waning seconds on Monday, it appeared they would have to wait to face the Pistons (58-23) before wrapping up home-court.
LeBron James drove toward the basket but his shot was blocked into the hands of forward Devin Brown with 0.9 seconds left. Brown went back up and appeared to be fouled, but time expired and the 76ers left the court.
Only after an official review was it determined that a referee had blown a whistle with 0.2 seconds remaining, allowing Brown to sink two foul shots that gave Cleveland a thrilling 90-89 win - and home-court advantage.
"I heard a whistle," Brown said. "It was just a matter of the officials going back and changing the other official's opinion. But I did hear a whistle."
The Cavaliers will face the Wizards for the third straight season in the first round of the Eastern Conference, and they've had home-court each time.
"It feels good to get a win on the road and lock up the fourth seed," said James. "That was one of our goals, to lock up the fourth seed and have home-court throughout the first round. We know how dangerous we are at home."
Cleveland is 27-13 at Quicken Loans Arena this season, and was 7-1 there through the Eastern Conference finals in last season's playoffs - including 3-0 against Detroit in its 4-2 series win to go to its first NBA finals.
The Pistons have taken two of three against the Cavaliers this season, as each team has won on its home court. James had 30 points as Cleveland won 89-73 on March 19, but has averaged only 14.0 points in his team's two losses.
Detroit clinched the East's No. 2 seed with a victory over Miami on April 6, and due to the Cavaliers' win over the Sixers, will face seventh-seeded Philadelphia in the first round.
The Pistons lost back-to-back games after wrapping up the two seed, but have won three straight since despite coach Flip Saunders giving reserves like Jarvis Hayes and Jason Maxiell plenty of playing time.
Starters Rasheed Wallace, Chauncey Billups and Tayshaun Prince only played about 24 minutes apiece on Tuesday in the Pistons' 115-103 win over Minnesota that guaranteed Detroit would have the league's second-best record, and home-court advantage should it reach the NBA finals.
"We decided on April 1 that we were going to start rotating in the young guys, and we'd take whatever happened,'' coach Flip Saunders said after his bench gave him 55 points against the Timberwolves. "Luckily for us, the kids have done a great job."
Saunders said he was only worried about getting through the game in Cleveland without an injury.
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