Only a few months removed from the NBA Finals, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich returned to the scene of his greatest disappointment on Saturday and said nothing in his career could really compare to how San Antonio let the Finals slip away in June.
“I think about it every day,” Popovich said.
The Heat defeated the Spurs 121-96 on Saturday at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami’s fifth exhibition game of the preseason schedule. The mood between the teams during the game was light, carefree and worlds away from the gripping drama that transformed South Florida in the 2013 Finals.
Both the Heat and the Spurs have spent this preseason trying to move past what many in the sport have called one of greatest Finals in NBA history. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra acknowledged this week that a residual effect of the dramatic series has lingered. For Popovich and the Spurs, shaking off the memories of Games 6 and 7 has been difficult as well.
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For instance, Popovich has been dreaming about LeBron James.
“Those sorts of events do a little bit of everything to a person,” Popovich said. “But, as I said, it still goes through my head every day. The other night I dreamt about LeBron. The next day it might be Ray Allen hitting the shot in the corner. It might be us missing a free throw; not getting a rebound. All those things go through your head. It’s what we do for a living, so it’s a natural kind of thing. It’s not the most important thing in my life, but it goes through my head.”
Customary to how the Spurs prepare for every season, Popovich said he and his assistant coaches delved into their team’s final games of the previous season in September with two marathon film sessions and then reviewed the games with players. The yearly exercise, Popovich said, is to help his team put everything in the past and look forward, but the legendary coach admitted it’s tough this time.
Saturday’s outcome isn’t going to help. After struggling with its offense in road games against the Wizards and Nets, the Heat returned to form in front of its home crowd and scored more than 100 points before the fourth quarter. James Jones’ sixth three-pointer gave the Heat a 102-82 lead at the third-quarter buzzer. Jones finished with 18 points, going 6 of 8 from three-point range.
Dwyane Wade, playing in his third game of the preseason, had 25 points and seven assists. He was 10 of 14 from the field and 5 of 6 from the free-throw line.
Udonis Haslem returned to the starting lineup after becoming sick on Tuesday. He lost several pounds, did not play on Thursday in Brooklyn and said he only started eating on Saturday. Haslem finished with seven points and eight rebounds in 20 minutes.
This and that
Allen sat out of his third game in a row. He last played on Oct. 11 against the Bobcats in Kansas City. … James did not play and said before the game that he plans to play Wednesday in New Orleans. … Most likely, James and Wade will watch from the bench in the Heat’s final preseason game Friday. … Instead of sitting on the bench, James sat in the front row of the baseline with fans during the game. … Rashard Lewis missed his third game in a row due to personal reasons.
• On Friday, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban suggested the NBA is better when everyone hates the Heat. He also compared the Heat to the Oakland Raiders, implying the Heat is the villain of the league. Cuban’s Mavericks defeated the Heat in the 2011 Finals but has struggled since then.
“With the two titles, they’re still like the bad guys,” Cuban said. “There’s a confidence bordering on arrogance that is good for them as a team and good for us as a league because it also makes them the team that everybody wants to knock off. They’re kind of in some respects the Oakland Raiders, and I know that’s going to get picked up everywhere. They’re kind of like the Oakland Raiders when they were winning. I don’t want to compare Micky to Al Davis — that’s not fair — but you either love them or hate them. That’s always good for the NBA when you have a team that everybody looks forward to beating. Like when we beat them, I would go to places I’ve never been and people would give me a standing ovation. That’s good for the NBA.”