Heat aiming to make most of time off before Round 2
MIAMI — LeBron James stood on the Miami Heat’s practice court Wednesday afternoon and was asked about his right thigh, which was bruised in a first-round, series-clinching victory against Charlotte.
"The thigh has been better," James said. "Obviously, I’m very fortunate and happy we were able to take care of business on Monday, and I get this week to get it back to where it was before Game 4."
While the NBA playoffs have been full of surprises and unpredictability, the Heat swept their opening series for the second straight season. That allowed players such as James and Dywane Wade, who endured knee and hamstring issues this season, to enjoy a rest of five or more days before facing Brooklyn or Toronto in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The Nets and Raptors entered Wednesday night’s game at Toronto tied 2-2.
"We did what we were supposed to do," Wade said of sweeping the Bobcats. "We went out there and won four games for a reason, to be able to have this opportunity to not only rest but get some work in behind the scenes."
Last season, the Heat had extra time to heal after their first two playoff series. Miami swept Milwaukee before defeating Chicago in five games to advance to the conference finals.
"I’ve been on both sides — it’s been an advantage for me and disadvantage for me," James said of extended playoff rest. "Last year, we lost at home Game 1 to the Bulls after they came off a grueling series with the Nets. And I’ve been on the other side — we’ve swept the first two rounds before.
"So, every year’s different. You learn from different years but you never take everything from one year and place it on this year. This year is different."
Even Heat coach Erik Spoelstra admitted he was uncertain how to best deal with extended time off during the postseason.
"You just never know what the blueprint is," Spoelstra said. "Last year, the first time we had it, we lost Game 1. I don’t know if that was attributed to the rest or not. We were actually in control of the game and then the fourth quarter it went the other way.
"Then in the Eastern Conference finals (against Indiana), we ended up losing the second one. I don’t know if there’s a correlation there."
Since the 2004 playoffs, 12 teams have swept a first-round series to face opponents that needed six or seven games to advance. All 12 sweepers prevailed in the second round.
Those teams included last year’s Heat — Chicago had needed seven games to get past Brooklyn — and James’ Cleveland Cavaliers in 2007 and 2009, the latter season also including a second-round sweep of Atlanta.
"It’s difficult. You always try to take things from the year before, but it’s challenging," James said. "For us, we just want to try and keep the edge and keep our conditioning level at a pretty good pace. If you’re not playing games, you’re not going to be in tip-top game shape.
"You go a week without playing basketball, as far as a game and the crowd and things of that nature, you can get little bit out of whack. But for us, mentally, we to have to stay sharp and understand what our next opposition could be."
Most Heat players, especially those dealing with nagging injuries or bruises, welcomed the respite.
"I like it," forward/center Chris Bosh said. "I think last year was kind of confusing but this year, I think we’re more prepared. I love being able to rest. We get our work in, but there’s nothing like the game."
Not all Heat players agreed with Bosh.
"I don’t like the time. I think it’s too much time," veteran guard Ray Allen said. "Everything is situational in this league. We deal with it from every aspect. You just adapt and make the best of it."
Spoelstra said the Heat did not focus on the Nets or Raptors during Wednesday’s workout. The team was expected to be off Thursday before likely practicing Friday, when the next opponent still would not have been determined.
"You definitely don’t want to sit around and not do anything," forward Udonis Haslem said. "You got to get there, get your conditioning and get your heart rate up, get a little sweat. Obviously, we’re a veteran team and we’ve been on both sides. We had rest and we had situations where we haven’t had as much rest.
"We know how to manage it either way."