As a former video coordinator and someone who developed game plans for upcoming opponents for Pat Riley during his first 13 years with the Heat, Erik Spoelstra got used to many long nights in the film room.
With the Heat still in position to play four different teams – Philadelphia, Cleveland, Boston or Toronto – when the playoffs begin next weekend, Miami’s coach knows exactly the kind of headaches his video guys are going through these days preparing for the postseason.
“I walked in this morning early and it literally looked like they’d been here all night, bags under their eyes,” Spoelstra, 46, said Sunday after practice. “I remember those days. They’re not fun, especially when there are so many different possibilities right now.
“We had less technology so it took more time [back when I did it], but I love telling them that literally 75 percent of their work is just going to get dropped in the trash can. That makes me smile. That makes me feel better. They’re going to go through hours and hours of sleepless nights, knowing the majority of that is going to be totally worthless.”
There is at least one thing the Heat (43-37) can accomplish Monday night at AmericanAirlines Arena to trim the amount of work the video department is doing in preparation for the playoffs.
With a win over the Oklahoma City Thunder (46-34), the Heat can clinch the Southeast Division title, eliminating the possibility of having to play top-seeded Toronto in Round 1.
There’s even a bonus: If the Heat wins and the Bucks (43-37) lose to the Magic (24-55) at home, Miami will clinch the No. 6 seed, trimming a first round series with Boston out of the equation.
A loss to the Thunder, though, would keep the door open to all four possibilities.
More than anything, Spoelstra said, he wants to see his team return to playing good basketball. Friday night’s blowout loss at the Knicks was a rare no-show performance by the Heat and something he and his players want to put behind them.
“That’s not what we wanted,” James Johnson said of the Heat’s performance at Madison Square Garden. “That’s not Heat basketball. Our coaching staff worked extremely hard for that, scouting it. We didn’t come out and perform. It’s no knock on them. It’s just us as players. We sat down, we talked about it. That’s not the kind of example of basketball we want to be playing.
“This is the time where everything should be sharp. I think we messed up on eight or nine defensive details that are just normally done. We can’t take no time off. We can’t be too cool to keep learning and keep drilling our habits.”
The Thunder, though, are highly motivated. OKC, seeded No. 7 in a crowded Western Conference at 46-34, can clinch a playoff spot with a win over the Heat.
Goran Dragic said its a good thing the Heat is playing a hungry team.
“I think that’s good because you guys know when we play against lottery teams, we don’t play well,” he said. “But when we play against good teams, it’s a playoff contender, and we know that this is really an important game for them. We’re going to play hard because we don’t want to be the team who just – you know what happened last year to us. We want to compete, and I think that’s fair to basketball, to other teams and OKC, too. Have a good game and in the end we’ll see who’s going to be better.”
▪ How ready does Dwyane Wade think the Heat is for the playoffs?
“I don’t know,” he said. “I’ve never been in the playoffs with this group, so I don’t know. We’re going to have to see when we get in, man. I think we’ve had moments where if we play our game, we play the way we needed to on the defensive end of the floor and offensively we’re playing with the pace with certain lineups and we’re moving the ball the way we need to, we can play with anybody. But also we had those moments where we haven’t played that way, i.e. the Knicks game, and we can get beat by anybody badly.
“So you know, we’ve got to bring our game to the playoffs. Some of these guys haven’t been in it, obviously missing it last year, and it’s going to be a challenge. But I’m looking forward to whatever the challenge is going to be with this group.”
▪ So what has coaching life been like now as a new father for Spoelstra?
“I’m used to not having a lot of sleep, but the erraticness of the lack of sleep? That’s been a curveball for me,” he said. “I have incredible respect for my wife.”