- Heat vs. Spurs: Finals Hub
MIAMI — You don’t throw around words like “panic” and “desperation” when you are as resilient as the Miami Heat have been this season, not even after surrendering home court advantage after Game 1 in The Finals.
It’s not in the Heat DNA to panic after a loss, regardless of how big of a game it appears to be. The Heat are 17-3 after a loss this season (4-0 in the playoffs) and they haven’t lost two straight games since Jan. 10.
They’ve won their last 10 games after a loss by an average of 19.9 points (and by no fewer than 11). Their offense has scored a scorching 116 points per 100 possessions in those 10 games, and their defense has allowed a paltry 93.
That would explain their decidedly measured approach to the challenge that awaits Sunday night in Game 2 (8 p.m. ET, ABC), by all means a must-win game for the reigning champs with three straight games in San Antonio on the schedule next week.
With 48 hours to mull over the mistakes, rewatch the film over and over again, the Heat always seem to figure out a way not to repeat the same mistakes. It’s a trait that has served them well thus far and will have to continue if this series is going to get back on the track they want it to.
“You probably heard all of us say it’s just owning up to our mistakes in the game,” Dwyane Wade said, trying to explain how the Heat rebound time after time, “really going upstairs, with Coach putting the game plan out for us, showing us what we did wrong, showing us some of the things we’ve done well, and coming back and being a mature team and trying not to make the same mistakes twice. I don’t think we’ll make the same mistakes we made in Game 1. That’s what we always try to do, to come out the next game and be a different team. We always feel like, as the series goes on, we get better and stronger as a team.”
For Wade and LeBron James, the Heat’s two biggest stars, the collective resolve has been an evolutionary process that began three years ago when they failed to compartmentalize their mistakes and lost in The Finals to a Dallas team that was not only better but certainly more mature and tougher mentally.
Still, having two days to stew after a loss that came with breakdowns on both ends of the floor in the final eight minutes makes the recovery a challenge.
“There’s pros and cons with having 48 hours in between games, especially after a loss,” James said. “You think about it a lot and it eats away at you. But at the same time, it allows you to really pinpoint ways you can get better in the next game. So the time helps. And the communication between the players and the coaches has to be receptive and open and honest in order for the game plan to work, because we have to have everyone on page from the coaching staff to the players once we get on the floor, because the game is so fast.”
The Heat’s focus between Game 1 and Game 2 isn’t just schematic, particularly for the role players. They have to take the mental and emotional aspects of what transpired into account and check themselves before taking the floor again. For all of the problems Tony Parker and Tim Duncan caused them in Game 1, the self-inflicted mistakes deserve just as much attention.
“We have to make adjustments and play with a sense of urgency,” Norris Cole said. “We have to play with that same spirit we had the first three quarters, before that final eight minutes when things went crazy. We don’t take anything for granted. Every time we step out on the floor we want to take advantage of the opportunity and win the game. We don’t want to let anything slip away. And nobody really needs to say anything, even though guys do, because that’s the type of personalities we have on our team. We have direct communication as a group. With our brotherhood, we can take it when guys have to say something. But this is The Finals. No one has to say anything. If you don’t understand that you can’t go down 0-2 on your home court, then you shouldn’t be playing this game.”
That’s the sort of understanding of the process that Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has been preaching to his team for years, a clear and sober realization that nothing happens at this point in a season by chance, that your fate is what you make it and that your energy, effort and execution determines whether or not you have a chance to prevail every night out.
That also means that failures have to be absorbed, processed and discarded accordingly. Whatever residue exists from Game 1 needs to be recycled into actions that don’t lead to a repeat performance. It’s a lesson the Heat have learned the hard way during their Big 3 run, one that has fueled them this season more than ever.
“There’s a maturity with this group,” Spoelstra said. “It’s not a guarantee. We don’t take that for granted. But our guys get angry. They own it. We all own it together. And then we just work together to try to get better.”
They need to get even this time if they don’t want to face the prospect of Sunday night being their last home game of the season.