It’s strange to say anything in six consecutive road games qualifies as a scheduling break, but the Heat sort of got one with two days between Wednesday’s exhausting, thrilling win against the Clippers and Saturday’s game at Utah.
There shouldn’t be a mental letdown, as you might expect if the Utah game came as the rear end of a back-to-back. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra gave his team Thursday off, then practiced Friday in Los Angeles. Also, the Heat should be physically rested, whereas Utah played in Dallas Friday night.
Two days also allowed for Heat guard Dwyane Wade and his temperamental knee to receive better TLC than they received during the last road trip.
For all the hand-wringing over the Heat in South Florida, whether or not they’ll catch Indiana for home court advantage, whether or not they could’ve used 7-foot Andrew Bynum, who signed with Indiana, there’s little of any hand-wringing around the Heat. They’ve won five of the last six, the only exception being a face plant at home against Oklahoma City after racing to a 22-4 lead.
LeBron James was asked after Wednesday’s win, which was by all accounts almost a Smithsonian display of team basketball for three quarters, if there were times he thought the Heat were playing the best they could.
“We’ve been playing some good basketball lately,” James allowed. “We want to continue that. When we’ve got our full unit in there, we can do some special things. We’ve got 15 guys who can be ready if Spo calls upon us. It’s great to have that now.”
Spoelstra, of course, wasn’t as effusive with his praise.
“But the way the ball was moving, particularly in the first half and the activity defensively, was more to our liking and ultimately, we think that’s a good start,” he said.
And the Clippers forced the Heat to show the mental toughness in a pressure situation that Spoelstra said earlier in the day he wanted to see. It’s doubtful he imagined it would be seeing a third 17-point third quarter lead sliced and diced down to two.
“Maybe going into the game. Once we got to that fourth quarter … be careful what you wish for,” Spoelstra laughed. “But I did mention that to the guys. Precisely what we came into the game wanting to work on, the resolve and mental toughness. The emotional stability. We certainly got tested [Wednesday].”