“We know who we are, we are who we are and we’re not going to change,” Boston coach Doc Rivers said. “We didn’t play well Tuesday night, but we rarely go away. Our guys do believe and they execute down the stretch.”
In the fourth quarter Tuesday, the Heat matched the Celtics, but it was the Celtics who made the timely plays.
“I thought it came down to loose balls,” Wade said. “I blocked a shot and Rondo punched it out to the corner and [Mickael] Pietrus sinks a three. It took the air out of us.”
The Heat can’t blame leprechaun luck. The Celtics are the ones who should be having senior moments, but it’s the Heat that tends to blank out.
Spoelstra is taking the heat. He’s not as good a coach as Rivers, but just 13 years ago he was a game film caveman. There’s nothing horribly wrong with Spoelstra, and it’s too easy to make him the scapegoat. Pat Riley is a constant presence, as he was Wednesday at practice, where he sat down for a talk with Udonis Haslem.
Yes, Spoelstra’s New Age mantras about “the journey” and “trust” and “purity” get tiresome. He has to come up with something more constructive than “stay the course” during timeouts. Pro athletes need a coach, not a guru. But that’s the way he communicates, and give him credit for being effective with a tinderbox of players that could have blown up in his face.
He made strange decisions in Game 5, such as keeping Joel Anthony and Bosh on the bench in the fourth quarter as KG went Godzilla in the post. Saying it wouldn’t have been “fair” to put Bosh back toward the end while Bosh was practically begging to go in was a bizarre statement.
So should the Heat lose the series, Spo might be the first to go. The roster might get ripped apart. The experiment might be a bust.
Yet, think about this rationally. Riley has few options in terms of cash, free agents and a No. 27 draft pick. He’s very loyal. He’s a contrarian. His ego is large enough that he would hate to raise a white flag. He has been aware from the outset that the Heat lacks a true center and an elite point guard. He could maintain this cast and keep tinkering. He could pull a rabbit out of his hat — or a 7-footer.
The Heat has won major road games before. If Wade finds his rhythm, James gets help from “the others” and Miami wins the hustle plays, this team could advance to the NBA Finals and prove too experienced for the Thunder.
The players are not panicking. And until someone does an autopsy they are not worried about the size of their hearts.
“I haven’t seen no one’s heart out there,” Wade said. “I have a heart, but it’s covered so who would know?
“The playoffs are the best time of year and the most painful. That’s what gets you to the gym every day. I’m only playing for championships, man, and I don’t think anyone’s expectations are higher than my own.”
Game 6 in Boston is bigger than Game 6 of the 2011 Finals because a loss would mean regression, and after the setup season, this was the no-excuses season.
Pressure? Pile it on, Wade said. He’s not living in Panic City.
“You know those noise cancellation headphones? We’ve got to put on those headphones,” he said. “If we listened to all the noise we’d be a nervous wreck.”
Let those who watch the game do the second-guessing and hand-wringing. Let Wade play it.