Homestand gives Miami Heat respite from weary road

01/23/2014 12:01 AM

03/14/2014 2:43 PM

If you didn’t know, it would have been hard to guess that Miami was playing its fourth game in five nights during the first half of Tuesday’s game with the Boston Celtics.

The Heat looked energetic on defense and like a well-oiled machine on offense, dictating the pace of the game and creating an 18-point cushion midway through the second quarter. Miami shot 63 percent from the field in the first quarter and held Boston to 40 points in the opening half, the fewest the Heat has given up in the first half since Dec. 10.

Miami looked rested and refreshed even if the team was coming off a difficult road trip where the defense was inconsistent at best.

“The schedule is what it is,” forward LeBron James said following the win over the Celtics. “Versus a team like this they’re going to bring a lot of energy and effort and you have to match that or even try to overcome it.

“You play every minute like it’s your last and you try to do things offensively and defensively to put your team in a position to live and you can live with that.”

The schedule did not do Miami much favors recently, given so many games and so little rest, but the Heat was 3-1 in the five-day stretch.

Forward Chris Bosh called any talk about the schedule “clutter” and said the players have the mindset of focusing on the game then worrying about healing and resting after the final whistle has sounded.

“We take it one possession at a time, one game at a time and we think we have plenty of time to recover after the game is over,” Bosh said.

Playing harder

“I like that we’re coming off a road trip where there’s a myriad of excuses,” coach Erik Spoelstra added. “What we talked about was finding an excuse to play harder and finding an excuse to make another effort.”

The Heat answered the call Tuesday as it gritted out a win over the Celtics with a 9-0 run to end the game. Spoelstra said he thought the Heat competed much better than it did in its previous loss the night before in Atlanta.

Yet, the mindset started pregame when the team arrived before 3 p.m. to begin preparing for the 7:30 tip against Boston. Spoelstra said the focus the team showed before the game translated onto the floor with the team’s play Tuesday.

“The way we approached [Tuesday’s game],” Spoelstra said. “[Having] a focused walk-through and a mindset to really compete, that made a difference [Tuesday] and it has to carry on to the next game.”

Spoelstra said the Heat’s depth is a crucial part of the team’s success and Tuesday’s game showcased the ability of the bench to give the starters a breather without the quality of play slipping. Forward Michael Beasley played nearly 13 minutes — the most he has played since Jan. 10 — and scored nine points in place of Ray Allen. Center Chris Andersen finished with 13 points in a little more than 24 minutes of action, including the entire fourth quarter.

Getting to relax

Miami now gets a chance to relax a little bit, staying home for four of the next five games before heading West on Feb. 5.

The Heat was off Wednesday prior to Thursday’s showdown with the Los Angeles Lakers, giving Miami plenty of time to heal before this crucial stretch of home games against Western Conference foes, including San Antonio and Oklahoma City.

Spoelstra said the ability to get back into a routine at home will be beneficial for everyone, especially Dwyane Wade, who missed his third straight game Tuesday to rest his knees. The coach said nothing has changed with the guard’s condition; the missed games are just a part of the bigger picture.

“You’re going to have some good days and some days where you don’t feel great,” Spoelstra said before Tuesday’s game. “We know as long as we stick to the routine, [Wade] should get better, quicker and stronger. Now that we’re at home we can get back on the routine of strength training and conditioning.”

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