By the time the ball goes up in Game 5 on Wednesday night, more
than 72 hours will have passed since Philadelphia rallied in the
final moments to beat Miami and save its season.
The wait seems much longer to the Heat.
”It’s horrible, honestly,” Heat forward LeBron James said.
Miami gets its second chance to move into the second round on
Wednesday night, when it brings a 3-1 series lead over the 76ers
back home. The Heat were outscored 10-0 in the final 82 seconds of
Sunday afternoon’s Game 4 at Philadelphia, and from that outcome
came two predictable mindsets.
The 76ers say they’re loose, playing with nothing to lose.
The Heat say they’re focused, eager to send Philly home.
”That’s they way they should play,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra
said. ”The way we should play is with a deep sense of urgency and
desperation. We had that for the most part in the first three
games. We had a sensational second quarter in Game 4. … But that
wasn’t enough of a burst. We weren’t able to sustain it and we
Should Miami win on Wednesday, the Heat will immediately turn
attention toward the long-awaited matchup with the Boston Celtics
in the East semifinals.
The Heat know the Celtics are waiting. Until win No. 4 against
Philadelphia is in the books, they won’t profess to care.
”We’re talking about Philly right now,” Heat guard Dwyane Wade
Some Philadelphia veterans, Elton Brand in particular, said
before the series began that the Sixers’ collective youth would
prove beneficial at times in this series. In short, Philly’s
younger starters – three of the 76ers’ first five had never started
a playoff game before this series began – are still learning the
magnitude of the playoff stage.
That’s not a bad thing, Brand said. It allows them to just play,
even when facing a six-point deficit near the very end of a
win-or-get-swept game like the one Philadelphia faced Sunday.
”It was easy for us when we were down seven with 8 minutes to
go for guys to pack it in and get ready for that vacation,” Sixers
guard Lou Williams said. ”Instead, guys locked down on defense and
made some big shots.”
So instead of flying to Miami for vacation, the Sixers are
returning for Game 5.
”They wanted to get down there,” 76ers coach Doug Collins
said. ”And guys are loose. They’re having fun. It’s just a great
time to be playing. Anytime you have the chance to play these kind
of games, it helps them grow. I’m learning more about them every
Collins brought his team in for a light Monday workout, before
another practice Tuesday preceding the flight to Miami. The Monday
session might have been one of the most lighthearted of
Philadelphia’s season, but Collins felt it was necessary to get his
players back in the workplace – if for no other reason than to put
the joy of Sunday behind them.
”I didn’t want them to think that was good enough,” Collins
said. ”I want them to want more.”
The message was delivered.
”We’re not happy,” Williams said. ”We have the opportunity to
go down there, try to extend the series and make it 3-2. At the end
of the day, all you can ask for.”
Miami took Monday off from practice, then returned for a lengthy
session Tuesday morning, replete with full contact 5-on-5 work,
knee pads and mouthguards in place.
That’s what worked best for the Heat all season, and Spoelstra
sees no need to change the thinking now.
”We needed to work on some things and get our edge back,”
Also not getting changed? Miami’s lineup.
The Heat have been outscored 78-46 with their starters on the
floor to open games in this series, then have outplayed the 76ers
by wide margins at times after those initial stints of games.
”We can change what we need to within ourselves and do it with
a better motor … better awareness to start the game,” Spoelstra
said. ”It’s all about everybody together.”
And together, Miami has grown tired of waiting around for Game 5
James was watching other playoff games on television Monday
night, noting that most of those series only have one full day off
until their next game. The Heat had two full days off – more than
three in actuality – to stew over what went wrong in Philadelphia
in Game 4.
”When you’re a competitor and you just love the game of
basketball, you love playoff basketball, you’re ready to get back
out there after one day off,” James said. ”But like D-Wade said,
we got an opportunity to get some rest, go through the mistakes and
some of the good things we did in Game 4. And we’re looking forward
to the challenge.”