Eric Spoelstra had the following to say about how their Miami Heat should react to their unmatched looks and their staggering playoff loss:
“Don’t listen to the noise,” he said. “There’s no excuse, no blame, inside our room. That’s what happens when you’re in big competition. They got the better of us. Now we look for answers.”
And so after Boston’s 25-point win in Game 2…
Oh wait Spoelstra didn’t say that after Thursday’s loss to Boston. He said this nine years ago in Game 3 of the 2013 NBA Finals after San Antonio beat the Heat by 36 points.
If you are a fan of Heat then you might remember that year. The banner of the team that beat San Antonio in seven games hangs from the rafters of the arena, a tribute to their NBA championship.
What you don’t remember is the feeling of sadness after that staggering loss—like most long playoff runs that come with the kind of disappointing defeat the Heat faced at home against Boston on Thursday night.
That’s not to say that Spoelstra’s dilemma right now is the same as in those two championship years. There’s no LeBron James or Dwayne Wade coming through the door, no Chris Bosh to use inside. This franchise has recovered from losses as of Thursday. This team has not.
But if people and circumstances change but the story doesn’t hold up in the playoffs: Blowout defeats are not the end of great teams. Is summer great? That’s a big question that has to be decided in Boston. Bad nights are part of any long journey, at least if you know how to handle them.
After a scuffle in Game 1, Boston was gut-tested, now it’s the Heat’s turn. The Heat had three starts in Game 2 with six or fewer points. This cannot happen again. One of them was Bam Adebayo, whose regular-season average of 19.1 points and 10.1 rebounds in three series of playoffs has dropped to 13.6 and 7.5. Have to change it.
Boston also scored nine of its first 11 shots and its first 20 free throws from three-point distance on Thursday night. It describes how Boston held a 25-point lead at half, its biggest halftime lead in a road playoff game in franchise history. That history includes 17 championship teams and also begins with a shootout at Plymouth Rock.
The question becomes whether the absence of point guard Kyle Lowry cannot be taken away against a tough and tested Boston team. Gabby Vincent is playing well in his absence. That’s why most of the national dialogue is focused solely on Boston missing out on Marcus Smart and Al Horford in Game 1.
But Lowry is a veteran and championship guard who can read a night or a matchup and knows how to shift it in his favor. Vincent is in unknown waters. There is usually a price to pay for the experience.
Adebayo? It’s more than a mystery, going deep in a playoff with such a severe drop in production. Yes, he is a versatile defender, the rare type that can set up a defense. His offense has always been a part of his game as well.
“They hit us in the mouth,” he said of Game 2.
It was the kind of bad night that was all over South Florida. bad? You know that scripted scene in a hundred movies where nothing goes right for the good guys, someone says, “At least it can’t get worse,” and then the car tire explodes?
Thursday night was similar. The Florida Panthers made a Little League mistake that cost them 3.8 seconds remaining, 2–1 in Game 2 against Tampa Bay.
The heat was blown out of their own building in a way that made the fourth quarter look like a Summer League game. Oh, and PJ Tucker walked away with a reported leg injury. This is something to behold.
“It only counts as a game,” Spoelstra said. “The players and the staff in the locker room have the same experience, understand. We don’t like it. They played very well.
“We have two really good teams and we have some things to figure out.”
He has been here before. It’s part of the lore of great teams. In the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals, Heat president Pat Riley showed up with a bottle of wine in Spoelstra’s hotel suite in Indianapolis and asked how he could help when a blowout loss reduced the Heat from 2 to 1. gave. Riley, like the rest of the staff, begins to sabotage the film.
“He went to work like we all used to,” Spoelstra said then.
Panic is not a plan. The heat will not worry. The question becomes how do they respond.
Jimmy Butler said, “It couldn’t be worse.” “They lashed us on our home court.”
We’ll see about it, just like we do in Game 3, about who the Heat are and what answers they have.