Amid the team’s uneven play in recent weeks, Heat president Pat Riley said Sunday that this roster has all it needs to be successful.
“We have everything we need,” Riley said at the team’s annual Family Festival at American Airlines Arena. “We have shot blocking. We got pick and roll bigs who can catch lobs. We’ve got pick and roll bigs who can catch layups. We’ve got shooters, defenders. We’ve got a lot of versatility. I think coach has done a great job of developing a system that’s for everybody. And so let’s get on with it.”
After beating No. 9 Detroit on Saturday, the Heat entered Sunday holding the eighth and final playoff spot — four games ahead of the Pistons and just 0.5 games behind No. 7 Milwaukee, two games behind No. 6 Philadelphia, 2.5 games behind No. 5 Indiana, three games behind No. 4 Washington and 3.5 games behind No. 3 Cleveland.
Asked if his expectation is that this team should finish higher than the eighth seed, Riley said: “I think we can go up the ladder. The teams between four and nine or 10 are like three or four games apart. A five-game winning streak can put you up in fourth. It’s great. It’s great. I wish we were up there and not having to fret out a lot of these games at night.
“[Saturday] night was a big win. Beating Philly [on Tuesday] was a big win. We’re not going to win all of our games going on out, but the teams that you have got to beat in this conference, beat them. Let’s just buckle up and enjoy this playoff ride. The crowds have been great. The games have been great. Very, very close games. Some games disappointing. It’s a typical NBA season.”
Of the team’s 33-30 record, Riley said: “There’s a lot of parity. I don’t look at it as being inconsistent. Sometimes there’s a lack of continuity through injuries and analytics and how coach decides how he’s going to rotate players.
“It was easy for me. I rotated seven guys, eight guys. It was a different game back then. Five guys sat on the bench. Eight guys played. Somebody got hurt or got in foul trouble, I would put a ninth guy in. But the old mantra was use eight, rotate seven, play six and trust five. And I always knew who my five were. And I think coach knows who his five are going down the stretch.”
Riley made clear he wants to see these players consistently committed to defense. From a defensive standpoint, Miami is fourth best in the league in points permitted per game (102), seventh best in field goal percentage allowed (45.2) and 10th best in three-point field goal percentage relinquished (35.7).
“What we need to do, as [coach Erik Spoelstra] knows, is the mantra of you have to have and develop a consistent disposition defensively to stop people,” Riley said. “In this game, it’s hard. It’s hard to stop people from getting up shots, all kinds of shots. Back in the day, somebody would take some of the shots that players take today, they would be out so fast, they would be sitting at the end of the bench or you would send them in the locker room. That’s the way the game is played. It’s a great game. A lot of fun.”
Riley reiterated he’s thrilled to have Dwyane Wade back.
“He’s going to be the big deal,” Riley said. “He’s always been the big deal. I love the fact that he’s back. It’s like having a family member that went away for a year and a half. You didn’t know where they were. They were traveling around the world. It’s great to have them back and have Gaby [Wade’s wife Gabrielle Union] and his family back. It’s super.”
Asked about Wade’s presence, Riley cited his willingness to speak out on social issues.
“He’s above and beyond from the standpoint of, I think he has matured from all of his experiences and his education and where he came from,” Riley said, speaking alongside his wife Chris. “I look at him as one of the most sophisticated players in being able to speak on issues, any issue, in the NBA. I hate to say this but he’s almost worldly. I think of myself and us as being worldly because we’ve been all over the place. Dwyane has something unique and special and I think he’s been heard very loud and clear on these issues.”
The Heat’s annual Family Festival has raised $10 million for assorted charities over 21 years.
“Just want to thank [owner] Micky Arison and [his wife] Madeleine and Carnival Cruise for sponsorship of the event,” Riley said. “It’s a fun day, a day everyone can interact with our players.
“We are undefeated the night before all galas. We’re 10-0. I think we’re undefeated the night before our festivals. So having galas and festivals before and after every game is going to be the whole routine next year.”
• Guards Tyler Johnson and Wayne Ellington, who have missed the past two games with bruised thighs, were upgraded to questionable for Monday’s home game against Phoenix.