Heat notebook

Miami Heat defied some fatigue questions just by reaching fourth consecutive NBA Finals

 
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bjackson@miamiherald.com

After Thursday night’s opener of the NBA Finals, the Heat has played 83 playoff games over the past four years — the equivalent of more than a full regular season — with as many as six more to go.

By making it this far, the Heat so far has refuted the theory espoused by Golden State coach Steve Kerr, who said last summer that the Heat probably wouldn’t make the Finals again because playing this many games over several years takes too great a toll.

“Having been a part of a three-peat in Chicago, I don’t know if anybody really understands how taxing it is emotionally and physically to go through that many years in a row,” Kerr said at the time. “There is a fatigue factor that can’t be ignored. Emotionally, it’s just exhausting. … So you don’t have the same edge. There’s a reason teams don’t” make four Finals in a row.

Now that Miami has made four Finals in a row — the first team to do it since the Celtics from 1984 to ’87 — the Heat so far has conquered that fatigue.

Among the reasons: Dwyane Wade sat out 28 games and coach Erik Spoelstra held fewer practices, monitored the minutes of his older players and made substantial use of his bench.

“If there was that much exhaustion, we wouldn’t have made it,” Wade said Thursday. “Is there a mental challenge? Yes. But that’s what we all asked for.”

Mario Chalmers said the four-year run has taken no toll whatsoever and “we’re not tired at all.”

But LeBron James admitted Thursday: “We’ve had mental fatigue and physical fatigue over the course of the season. But, mentally, we were able to re-gather ourselves when it meant the most.”

Shane Battier, who is retiring after this series, said exhaustion is not an issue because “we see the finish line. It’s the NBA Finals. There is nothing left to save it for.”

BIRDMAN AT EASE

Chris Andersen, who wasn’t used in two Finals games last season and averaged just three rebounds in the series, admitted he’s “not as anxious” during these Finals.

“Birdman” was amusing this week. Asked the keys to defending Tim Duncan, he said: “I can’t give you all the keys. If you are looking for keys, you gotta go find a locksmith.”

When a reporter said it looked like he changed his hair, he snapped: “What are you, the hair police? ... I just cut my hair, that’s it.”

Asked if he is still going by the nickname Birdzilla, he said: “Absolutely. It’s been Birdzilla for a while. Y’all just ain’t heard about it until recently.”

BOSH BALKS

Heat players bristle when anyone suggests they didn’t have a particularly taxing path to the Finals. “There’s no such thing as an easy road,” Chris Bosh told one reporter who insisted otherwise.

When the reporter said, “It’s the East, though,” Bosh said: “It’s the playoffs, though. You have to play the game to understand that.”

•  Michael Beasley and Justin Hamilton were the Heat’s inactives.

• ABC’s Jeff Van Gundy said, off the air, that it wouldn’t make sense for James, Wade and Bosh to leave as free agents not only because of their success here but also because “the Eastern Conference is definitely the place to be if you’re a great player. The road is just a lot easier to navigate. I can’t see them willingly changing their path.”

•  Tony Parker is leading the Spurs in scoring this postseason at 17.2 points per game — notable because no team in NBA history has won a championship with a playoff scoring leader averaging that few points.

The last team to win a championship without a player averaging at least 20 points in the postseason: the 1961 Celtics, with Tommy Heinsohn falling just short at 19.1.

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