Heat eager to face challenges of road trip against some of West’s best
MIAMI — This season has been a struggle for the Miami Heat amid injuries, inconsistent play on both ends of the floor, lineup changes and roster shuffling. But their upcoming five-game road trip through the West Coast will represent either their biggest challenge yet or their most impressive breakthrough so far.
Sunday’s 88-84 home win against the Brooklyn Nets gave them some momentum entering the two-week stretch of road games against a tough slate of teams. Miami has held opponents to under 100 points in 14 of their 15 victories this season, but three of the five teams they face rank in the top six in the NBA in scoring.
Head coach Erik Spoelstra is eager to see how his team responds to this latest test together as a strong unit, on and off the floor.
"We’re learning a lot about our team every single day," he said after Tuesday’s practice at AmericanAirlines Arena before the team leaves the following day for Portland. "This next road trip will be a good time for us to get away from Miami, be around each other, and just continue to fight everything and to do it together.
"That’s the whole point. When you face tough times through adversity, frustration and some disappointment during the season, the only way out of it is together. You learn those lessons through sport and when you’re away, you have another opportunity to do that even more."
Chris Bosh hasn’t missed a beat since returning to the court after suffering a calf strain last month that knocked him out of eight games. He’s averaging 19.8 points in his first four games back, but he’s looking forward to seeing what this team can do against some of the tougher teams out West.
"This is going to test our resolve just to see if we’ve learned anything over these past few weeks," he said. "We need to try to have a pretty good record coming out here. We have to so we’ll see how it goes."
With the team at 15-20, Bosh is aware that the pressure is increasing to get back on track after a wobbly start to the season.
"It’s been mentally challenging, but every season is mentally challenging," he said. "It just changes, and sometimes that’s good for us. Individually you want to see what you can overcome and as a team you want to do the same thing. It would be boring just to keep winning right away. I think we’d take it for granted so we’ve got to get back on the horse and get the job done."
After their first game on the trip against the Trail Blazers, the team will have a five-day stay in Los Angeles during which they will face the Lakers and the Clippers.
With the extended break in action as well as the luxury of not having to travel much during the trip, the Heat hope to establish some semblance of normalcy away from Miami while taking advantage of being able to bond together.
"Just being able to stay put," Bosh said on what he’s looking forward to the most on the trip. "You can plan stuff like after the game. We usually don’t get to do that. Usually we’re on a plane and jet-lag being a factor and all of that stuff — checking into a hotel in the wee hours of the morning. It’s tough but it’s one less thing we have to worry about. We need every ounce of energy we can muster in order to get the job done."
That doesn’t mean the team will be taking it easy though. There is plenty of work to be done to rise out of the hole they’ve dug for themselves and to get their record back to .500.
"It’s our job to go out and continue to try to play the game that we need to play and try to compete at a high level," Wade said. "Everyone knows the Western Conference teams are good teams but that doesn’t mean you can’t go out and win ballgames. You just got to play your game at a very high level to win it so we look forward to that challenge."