Tony Fiorentino is no stranger to the Miami Heat. He has been involved with the team as an assistant coach, scouting coordinator or broadcaster since the franchise’s inception in 1988.
Fiorentino is currently in his 11th season as a regular member of the Heat’s Sun Sports broadcast team. He and play-by-play man Eric Reid form the only NBA broadcasting team that has been employed by their franchise since its start.
FOX SPORTS FLORIDA: How do the Heat head into the playoffs compared WITH the past two or three years?
FIORENTINO: It appears health-wise they’re better off than last year, when Dwyane Wade banged his knee toward the end of the season and then did it again in the (first-round) Milwaukee series. He wasn’t as strong as he could have been, but he got through it.
Obviously, they’re not going into the playoffs with the same momentum as they did last year when they won 37 out of their last 39. They’re only 11-14 in the last 25 games this season. You don’t want to make excuses, but Dwyane Wade missed a lot of games and other people were sick and in and out of the lineup. It’s hard to get any continuity when you do that.
So, I’d say they’re heather than last year but don’t have the same momentum going in.
FSF:What is the Heat’s biggest strength?
FIORENTINO: We gave four positives on the air. One, Dwyane Wade was healthy. Two, Udonis Haslem has re-found his game and that’s a big positive, especially with his championship experience and grit, a blue-collar worker. Three, they have experience as a group, so when things are starting to go south, they won’t panic, they’ve been through it all. And No. 4, the Heat have LeBron James and the opponent doesn’t.
FSF:What is their biggest concern?
FIORENTINO: Turnovers. I know the playoffs are a different thing, and maybe during the season they weren’t as focused as they could have been, but what you worry about as a coach is that you don’t want that bad habit carrying over into the playoffs because you can get stuck in a pattern if you let it happen.
The Heat are a very good half-court defending team but when you allow teams to out in the open court off turnovers you can’t match up … 3-point shooters get open, and then you don’t rebound as well. It all stems from turning the ball over. So the one concern for me is that the Heat limit their turnovers.
FSF:Do you think Wade’s return after missing so many games will affect chemistry, especially offensively with James and Bosh?
FIORENTINO: I think it’ll come naturally. I think the (April 12) Atlanta game proved that. LeBron, Chris Bosh and Wade all played in that game. I just think they’ve been together too much, they’ve played too many games together. If this had been the first year of the Big Three maybe, but not now. They’ll be fine. It’s just like getting back on the bike and riding again.
FSF:How do you see Miami’s postseason rotation shaping up?
FIORENTINO: You can’t really figure it out from our standpoint right now because I’m not sure Erik Spoelstra has. The one thing he tried to do this year was keep Ray Allen, Norris Cole and Chris Andersen coming off the bench in their roles. That’s a positive. Rashard Lewis has emerged as a viable option.
It seemed Coach Spoelstra was set on keeping Chris Bosh at the power forward spot as much as he could. That would tell you Udonis Haslem and Birdman would man the center position with Greg Oden as the second backup.
I think what Coach Spoelstra has in mind is a nine-man rotation … a 10th man for foul trouble … and then go from there.
FSF:Who or what do you see being the Heat’s biggest challenge through the Eastern Conference playoffs?
FIORENTINO: Whoever they’re playing. Whatever series you’re in, that’s the team that can upend you.
Take the Bobcats. Charlotte has the Heat’s attention, which is good for the Heat. The Bobcats have won eight of nine, 16-6 in the last 22 games. And in two of the four regular-season meetings, one was in overtime and another the Heat had to come back from being 10 down with Bosh hitting three 3s. So the Heat know this is not going to be a pushover.
With the success Charlotte has had recently, the way they hang in games, they’re very well-coached, with Al Jefferson emerging as a possible MVP candidate, with Kemba Walker’s quickness in the backcourt — I think all of this factors got the Heat’s attention.
FSF:What are you most interested in seeing from the Heat this postseason?
FIORENTINO: Just better play offensively. I think the defense will be fine, they’ll take it up a notch or two.
We know there have been games where the body language wasn’t there. The Heat won’t have that problem in the playoffs. They know this is what they were brought together for. They know that it’s do or die. And I think you’re going to see a team that going to go out here and get after it from the opening tip.