NBA play-in seen as playoff support? Heat’s Spoelstra says he doesn’t care – The Denver Post
Before Tuesday morning’s shootout began in Toronto, before the disheartening 106-92 loss to the Raptors that night, before moving on to Wednesday night’s game against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden, the coach of the Heat Erik Spoelstra, as he usually does, kissed for a moment.
No, the play-in tournament is not the preferred route when it comes to qualifying for the NBA playoffs. But with his team teetering towards that reality, Spoelstra, as he too is wont to do, seized the moment as a call to battle.
So, on the Scotiabank Arena training ground, Spoelstra told his players that there is no detour that cannot be traversed, no roadblock that cannot be surmounted.
Play in? Playoffs? Regardless, Spoelstra said, insisting there are still visions of a deep run beyond the April 9 regular-season finale, after picking up a win ahead of the NBA Finals of the last season.
“I know our group,” Spoelstra said. “That’s what we decided to do this year after a loss in Game 7. Nothing has changed.”
Only everything has changed.
From a No. 1 seed in last year’s playoffs, the Heat are struggling in the race for the top six seeds this time around, with only those six teams advancing directly to the best-of-seven. in the first round. Otherwise, seeds 7-10 play in the qualifying tournament for one of the final two seeds in the Eastern playoffs.
Again, it doesn’t matter, Spoelstra said.
“I think one of the best things that’s ever happened in this league in the last decade is that play-in,” Spoelstra said, moving as if it were a speech he made. had spoken earlier. “You had the top of the league getting a comfort zone for several years to just be healthy, rest guys, handle the load, all that stuff. You had 10-12 tanking teams. And then you had the teams unfortunately in the middle that started to emulate the teams at the top. So that slowly diluted the competition over several years.
“Now what he’s done, I believe, is he’s exposed players and teams that, ‘Hey, don’t forget, the lifestyle is awesome, the money is awesome, everything it’s about the luxury that’s given to us. But don’t forget for a second that it’s about the competition. And it’s also about the teams where we are here. I don’t want to say mediocre, because that’s not than the new reality and we have an incredible opportunity ahead of us.
Indeed, it was really Spoelstra who was rewinding, having offered the same in private to his players not long before.
“I think the big thing and like the coach said today is the play-in tournament,” guard Kyle Lowry said of what apparently should be the lifeline of the Heat. “To get every team that has the opportunity to play for the playoffs to be there. For us, we know why we want to play. We just have to get there and get to that situation.
“We can’t worry about what happened, what happened, we literally have to worry about tonight and tonight only. And I think that’s where we could be more successful, where we can really focus on who we are right now and where we are.
In the play-in, one or two defeats and you are eliminated. But with a win, it’s over a No. 7 or No. 8 seed and best-of-seven in the first round.
For a coach who calls his toughest practices the Hunger Games, this is the type of theater, Spoelstra said, where his team could excel.
“We have guys wired for this kind of competition, knowing it’s going to bring out all the different emotions,” he said. “That’s what you see league-wide. You see meltdowns, you see bad losses, you see surprising losses, you see amazing gains.
“That’s what competition brings out of teams.”
At that point, Spoelstra might as well have been in front of his players again, exuberantly urging.
“I really believe,” he said, “that this is going to bring out the best in our group.”
Fervent, it seems, believes.
“I know what we believe,” he said. “I don’t give like—what other teams think. But I know our group does.
“I know our group believes they can win at the highest level.”