On the eve of the Heat’s second Eastern Conference finals Game 7 in as many years, an upbeat Erik Spoelstra delivered the same six-word message three times during his briefing with the media on Sunday:
“We’re not above a Game 7.”
Many expected the Heat’s run through the Eastern Conference playoffs would not be quite as arduous, but Spoelstra said: “It’s not a failure. We’re not above having to earn it.
“We’re not entitled to anything. There have been plenty of champions before that have had to go through Game 7s. Nobody just runs through the playoffs” — although a few have come close, including the Lakers’ 15-1 sprint through the 2001 postseason.
The Heat is 11-4 in these playoffs. But Miami is 4-5 against Indiana this season, including 3-3 in this series.
Aware of rampant criticism about the Heat’s play in the Eastern finals, Spoelstra said: “Come on! We’re tied. It’s not like anybody is up in this series. That’s where the narrative on the outside is skewed.”
Spoelstra said swingman Mike Miller “gave us good minutes” in the fourth quarter of Game 6 — including two three-pointers — but stopped short of saying he definitely would play in Game 7.
“Everything is on the table,” Spoelstra said. “In a Game 7, our guys understand anything goes.”
In the second half Saturday, Spoelstra opted for Miller instead of Shane Battier, whose four minutes all came in the first half. Battier didn’t attempt a shot and is 15 for 66 (22.7 percent) in the playoffs.
“The rotation we had been playing has been extremely successful,” Spoelstra said. “That might be the way we still go. … Shane will be there [Monday] and have an impact.”
Spoelstra said he didn’t go sooner to Miller — who played just seven minutes in the first five games — because “we were up 3-2, and we won a lot of games and already won two series with a rotation we were playing all year.”
The NBA fined Pacers center Roy Hibbert $75,000 for using “inappropriate and vulgar language” during his media session after Game 6.
Asked Saturday night about his defense on LeBron James, Hibbert ended his response with “no homo.”
And asked why he finished only 10th in Defensive Player of the Year voting, Hibbert said: “Y’all mother [expletive] don’t watch us play throughout the year, to tell you the truth. That’s fine. I’m going to be real with you. And I don’t care if I get fined.”
Hibbert apologized for the comments Sunday morning, calling them “insensitive,” but was fined several hours later.
“While Roy has issued an apology, which is no doubt sincere, a fine is necessary to reinforce that such offensive comments will not be tolerated by the NBA,” commissioner David Stern said.
Before the fine was announced, Pacers coach Frank Vogel said Hibbert “obviously made a great mistake. He’s very contrite, feels horribly about it.”
Spoelstra indicated his confidence hasn’t wavered in guard Ray Allen, who is shooting 13 for 46 in the series. “Ray will be there,” he said. “He’s hit some big ones when we needed.”
• With center Joel Anthony collecting eight rebounds and three blocks in 29 minutes of Game 6, Spoelstra said Chris Andersen’s one-game suspension Saturday “wasn’t a factor.” Andersen will be available for Game 7.
• Among the statistical lowlights from Game 6: Miami’s 77 points tied a season low and its 36.1 shooting percentage was a season low. … The combined 15 points, one assist and four field goals from Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were their lowest combined totals in each category in three years as teammates.
Whereas Wade has failed to reach 20 points for a career-long 12 games in a row, Bosh has failed to reach double figures in three consecutive games for the first time since his rookie season.
This and that
The Pacers confirmed that they are packing for eight days and will fly straight to San Antonio if they win Monday. “We believe we can win there,” Vogel said Sunday. “We believe we can win the series. We always have.”
• Outrebounded by 20 in Game 6, the Heat now has been outrebounded by 105 in nine games against Indiana this season.
• James said he sprinted down the court after the late foul against him in Game 6 “to stop me from being ejected. I just got away from the ref. I don’t have [any] idea why that was called an offensive foul.”
• The home team is 89-23 (79.5 winning percentage) all time in NBA Game 7s.