In the history of its franchise, the Heat has won less than a handful of games in San Antonio. Up the road a ways from the Alamo is Oklahoma City, where the most hostile home crowd in the NBA cheers for the Thunder.
Consider these two cities Exhibit A and Exhibit B for why locking up the best record in the NBA was important for the Heat. In clinching the league’s best record Wednesday, Miami earned itself home-court advantage throughout the playoffs, and that includes a Game 7 scenario at AmericanAirlines Arena in the Finals.
In other words, the Heat bought itself an insurance policy.
“We’re not going to use that as a crutch, but it’s a nice break-in-case-of-emergency box that we have installed in the ‘Triple A,’ ” Battier said.
Since the beginning of the LeBron James Era, the Heat has only played one Game 7. It was the final game of last season’s Eastern Conference finals, and the Heat defeated the Celtics 101-88 at AmericanAirlines Arena. The Heat did not begin the 2012 Finals with home-court advantage but turned that series in its favor with a win in Oklahoma City in Game 2. Miami then won three consecutive games at home to prevent the series from going back to Oklahoma.
“The biggest luxury is having a potential Game 7 on your home floor,” Battier said. “But we know from our experience last year that you have got to have a game to win anywhere against anyone. That’s all that matters.”
Since training camp, coach Erik Spoelstra has preached the importance of the regular season while also reminding everyone that the Heat has bigger things to accomplish once the playoffs begin. Miami’s steady improvement throughout the season was no accident, said Heat reserve Ray Allen, who left the Celtics to join the Heat’s tour de force.
“It requires an intense amount of focus,” Allen said. “When you’re going through it, it’s a process and sometimes guys get tired of following it throughout the season and you lose 10 to 15 games a year that you shouldn’t lose.
“But we’ve done a great job of remaining consistent all year long. We’ve learned, and we’ve gone through our growing pains.”
And now some of the Heat’s key players are resting those pains.
James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh sat out a game together on Wednesday for the first time this season. Wade hasn’t played since March 29 but said after the Heat’s victory against the Wizards that he hopes to play Friday against the Celtics.
Of course, while the Heat has throttled back the intensity over the past two weeks, the team hasn’t viewed its remaining games as completely pointless. Mike Miller, for one, has made the most of what ultimately will be remembered as the Heat’s extended rest period before the postseason.
Wade’s time off has allowed Miller to potentially insert himself into the Heat’s postseason plans. He had four more three-pointers against Washington after knocking down seven against the 76ers on Saturday. Asked directly whether Miller has earned playing in postseason, Spoelstra offered a politically correct answer.
“It’s a good question, and here’s my answer to it: They all have,” Spoelstra said of his team. “All of them have played into a playoff spot. Is it necessarily a direct rotation spot? That changes from series to series.
“That’s one thing we’ve learned in two years of going all the way to the end. Each series is its own monster and challenge. People who are playing in one series, it might change slightly in the next series.
“So, everybody is live and active, and that’s how we view it. That’s the reason we put together this depth: to take advantage of it during the course of hopefully a two-month journey.”
Like home-court advantage throughout the playoffs, maybe the Heat should encase Miller in a glass box — “Break in case of emergency.”