What would have been a “disgusting” turn of events for the Heat turned into something “awesome” Sunday night, thanks to a last-minute audible from coach Erik Spoelstra.
Before Monday’s Heat-Bobcats game, Spoelstra explained his decision to reverse course and allow the Heat to remain in Toronto to watch the Super Bowl instead of flying home during the game, which had been the plan.
The Heat left Toronto at 11:58 p.m. Sunday, about 80 minutes after the Super Bowl ended, and arrived home by 3 a.m.
“There was a groundswell of enthusiasm to watch the game, not only the players but also the staff,” Spoelstra said. “We all wanted to see it. It felt so awkward we would be up in the air missing it. The more we talked about it, we started to look for some solutions to try to make it happen.”
Even with a game Monday, Spoelstra said arriving home so late was not a concern because “we’ve played so many back-to-backs, it would be really similar to a normal time [getting home after a night game]. So we decided the benefits outweighed any perceived negatives, and it ended up being a great team building/bonding experience for our guys.”
The Heat watched the game from a private room inside Real Sports, an upscale sports bar. Shane Battier called it “awesome … one of the best team days I had in the NBA, one of the best days I had as a pro, socially with my teammates.”
The decision also clearly pleased LeBron James, who when asked last week about the prospect of missing the Super Bowl, said: “How disgusting is that?”
Heat players and coaches entered the bar through the kitchen and were separated from fans, but Norris Cole said fans waved to players through a clear glass wall.
Spoelstra said there was no thought to leaving during the 35-minute power outage: “We thought we would give it a little bit of time. Glad we did because that was a spectacular finish.”
One amusing note: The Heat tweeted a picture of Spoelstra watching game tape from the sports bar.
“Somebody told me that,” Spoelstra said, smiling. “I’m not a total geek. We were there an hour before the game started, so I watched film during that hour, and I watched off and on in commercials in the first quarter. After the first quarter, I put that computer in my bag and enjoyed the rest with the staff and the players.”
Battier said most players were rooting for the Ravens, with Battier and Mike Miller among the 49ers supporters.
There’s a decent chance Spoelstra, the Eastern Conference All-Star coach, will start center Chris Bosh in the game in place of injured Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo, but Spoelstra said he hasn’t made a decision.
“Wouldn’t it be so much more fun with some suspense?” he said. “By the time we got on the airplane, I was not thinking about All-Star Weekend.”
Has Bosh lobbied to start?
“Not at all,” Spoelstra said. “I figured he would try to bribe me last night, but he didn’t.”
In sorting through the differences between individual Heat players’ performance at home and on the road, here’s one factoid that stands out:
Four Heat players are shooting significantly worse on the road than at AmericanAirlines Arena: Ray Allen, Udonis Haslem, Dwyane Wade and Mike Miller.
Allen’s disparity is particularly eye-opening: He is shooting 53.8 percent and averaging 13.0 points in Miami, compared with 39.5 percent and 9.0 outside South Florida.
Allen shot moderately better at home in each of his five seasons in Boston, but the difference was never this dramatic, and he always shot between 44 and 48 percent in road games those years.
After shooting better on the road the previous three seasons, Wade is shooting 55 percent at home, 46.4 on the road. And he’s scoring 22.4 at home, compared with 18.7 on the road.
Haslem (54.4 percent to 44.5) and Miller (45.3 to 36.1) also are shooting much worse on the road. James is averaging more points on the road (27.1 to 26.1) but shooting better at home (56 to 53.9 percent).
The Heat entered Monday 18-3 at home, but just 12-11 away.