Heat have little time to prepare for Game 1
Thursday was originally intended to be a somewhat relaxing day for the Miami Heat. A quick meeting. A team dinner. A bit of rest after the grind of 82 regular-season games and a long night of travel home from Toronto.
The NBA schedule-makers had other plans.
When the postseason schedule was released, the Heat got a bit of a surprise: Game 1 against the Philadelphia 76ers is set for Saturday, and that meant coach Erik Spoelstra needed to trim 24 hours of preparation time from his plans for the playoff opener.
''It's a quick turnaround,'' Spoelstra said in Toronto on Wednesday night after Miami finished a 58-win regular season by topping the Raptors 97-79. ''We were expecting a Sunday game and it ended up being a Saturday afternoon game. We're going into our preparation (Thursday) afternoon ... to start this process of getting ready for Philly.''
In fairness, that process already started. The Heat did some work on the 76ers in Toronto on Wednesday morning, hours before the regular-season finale. At that shootaround practice, Miami stars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all participated.
In the actual game against Toronto, they did not.
''They legitimately are nicked-up right now,'' Spoelstra said. ''We have to look at the big picture.''
Even with the ''Big 3'' on the sidelines, Miami wrapped up the NBA's third-best record with Eddie House scoring a career-high 35 points and lightly used Jamaal Magloire returning to his hometown to grab 19 rebounds, something only nine other Heat players had ever done in a regular-season game.
The Heat will have home-court advantage in the playoffs over any team, except Chicago or San Antonio.
''A day of rest,'' Bosh told Toronto radio station Fan 590 after the game. ''That was the best thing for us.''
And on second thought, Spoelstra decided more rest would be needed Thursday as well.
It's highly unusual for the Heat to practice the day after a long flight. Spoelstra was going to buck that trend, but after the team landed in Miami at 3 a.m. Thursday, he changed his mind and canceled the workout.
Some players will be in for treatment of various injuries, and plenty of film will be broken down throughout the day. But the bulk of the on-court work has been postponed until Friday.
Nonetheless, Thursday is going to be a bustling day at 601 Biscayne Blvd. in Miami, where the Heat play their home games.
The building will be converted back to basketball-ready, after hosting a Lady Gaga concert on Wednesday night. New banners will be hoisted all around the outside of the facility. Many people will begin a contest to see if they can remain seated outside for 48 straight hours, with playoff tickets going to the winner. And white covers will be installed over just about all 19,600 seats - the playoff marketing theme is ''White Hot,'' with fans encouraged to wear white to all home games, just as they did during the run to the 2006 NBA title.
''I'm sure it will be a whiteout,'' 76ers coach Doug Collins said. ''I'm guessing it's going to be a total whiteout in there. Usually in the playoffs, that's the way it is. ... It's going to be Hollywood. It's going to be the place to be.''
Miami won all three games against Philadelphia this season, though none of them were romps: The victory margins were 10, 9 and 12 points, respectively. And the 76ers were 3-13 after losing to the Heat on Nov. 26; they were 38-28 from there, the East's fifth-best record during that span.
If there is one thing that makes the short window of playoff preparation easier, it's the fact that the teams played for the third and last time during the regular-season on March 25.
Neither has changed much since.
''We have to get into the video prep, walk through some things and start to put together our game plan for a challenging series that we can expect,'' Spoelstra said. ''We have full respect for what they're capable of, particularly with their speed and athleticism and really what they've done since the All-Star break.''
AP Sports Writer Dan Gelston in Philadelphia contributed to this story.