The buzzword, for three years with this Heat team, has been sacrifice. Coach Erik Spoelstra might use that word more than any other.
But sacrifice for these players has meant more than taking less money than they could have made elsewhere (which applies to many of the team’s players), sacrificing playing time ( Mike Miller, James Jones, Ray Allen, etc.) or taking fewer shots ( Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, among others).
It also has meant altering aspects of their game — a point reinforced this week with Bosh moving his game further from the basket on occasion. Spoelstra spoke of the willingness of Heat players to do things that make them a bit uncomfortable.
“It’s different and it’s not easy,” LeBron James said. “It’s very challenging to step out of your comfort zone and do some things you may not be comfortable doing. But we know what the big picture is.”
Besides taking fewer shots, Wade said his other big adjustment “is giving the ball up, playing off the ball. I’ve always played with the ball, gotten the ball when I felt like it. Now it’s different. I’ve made the adjustment, found a way of being a cutter, being more of a post player.”
Players appreciate Bosh embracing the challenge of becoming a three-point threat when needed, and Spoelstra said “he’s as versatile for us” as James is.
“A lot of credit goes to Chris for changing his game and really working on his outside shot,” Wade said.
Spoelstra said Bosh takes 100 to 200 three-pointers after practice.
“He’s embraced so much of what we’ve asked him to do,” Spoelstra said.
That also includes playing center primarily when power forward has long been his preference.
“You had to be really open-minded,” Bosh said. “Some people see a big [guy] and want to put you in a box and put your back to the basket even though a guy might outweigh me by 50, 60 pounds. If the team doesn’t need me to do that, I’m not going to waste my time and try to bang [with] dudes and shoot hook shots all night.”
Bosh, who shot 21 for 74 on three-pointers during the season, shot 3 for 4 in Game 1 and missed his only three in the first half of Game 2. He said the corner three-pointer “is an effective shot. I had to extend my range a little bit. Part of being a better player is taking on new challenges and being uncomfortable as much as possible…. It’s the best way to help this team out.”
THIS AND THAT
• Bucks forward Luc Richard Mbah A a Moute said though James isn’t unguardable, “this year more than ever, he doesn’t force the game. He really lets the game come to him. That’s where he’s made his biggest improvement. He doesn’t take bad shots. He used to force the issue. Now he moves it when he needs to move it; he shoots it when he needs to shoot it.”
• Spoelstra, on having a team devoid of malcontents or complainers: “You have to have guys with the right type of egos and résumé And they’re not easy to find. That’s what makes this group special.”
• James, on his former team (Cleveland) rehiring his former coach ( Mike Brown): “I’m very happy for him. He’s a really good coach, very defensive-minded coach.” But James said he won’t reach out to Brown because he’s not using his cell phone during the playoffs.