Despite up-and-down performances in the first two games at Fiserv Forum of this best-of-seven Eastern Conference first-round playoff series against the Milwaukee Bucks, Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said he believes his team has grown grounded for such moments, with deep playoff runs in two of the three previous postseasons.
“We’ve been through a lot as a group in a lot of playoff situations, but also just this year,” he said of a season that required constant rotation reshuffling. “And I think we’ve been able to manage a lot of different emotions and just stay the course.
“I think that’s built up the requisite type of resilience that you need in a playoff series against a good team.”
Spoelstra, ahead of Saturday night’s Game 3 at the Kaseya Center, also said there was no need to get overly caught up on the playing status of Giannis Antetokounmpo, with a respect in place for the Bucks’ depth of talent, including Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton on the wing.
“You want to respect what they can do with all that 3-point shooting and the spacing and the drive-and-kick game,” he said. “Holiday and Middleton, each of them can create a lot of stress on your defense.”
With Tyler Herro out with a broken hand and with Kyle Lowry continuing to be listed as questionable for games due to knee soreness, the Heat find themselves learning on Gabe Vincent for more offense than in typical situations.
Center Bam Adebayo said that has meant getting in Vincent’s ear.
“After film, me and Gabe talked about it,” Adebayo said. “and I want him to hunt certain shots. I want him to be aggressive. I know he’s our point guard, but we still need him to be aggressive in our offense.”
Vincent went into Saturday averaging 15.5 points on 11-of-18 shooting from the field and 6-of-14 shooting on 3-pointers, with four 3-pointers in each of the first two games, with nine assists to three turnovers.
Vincent averaged 8.7 points on .417 shooting from the field and .368 shooting on 3-pointers during the regular season.
Bucks forward Jae Crowder, who had a home in Miami from even before his brief tenure with the Heat in 2020 and retains that residence, confirmed that a return to the Heat was one of his preferences as he worked through an impasse with the Phoenix Suns that had him out of action until February.
“Of course,” he said of a desire for a Heat reunion, having helped lead the Heat to the 2020 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Disney World pandemic quarantine bubble. “Yes, when I was talking to Phoenix, Miami was one of the teams I asked that we could look at and be traded. Miami was one, Milwaukee was one. And there were two other teams.”
Differences between Crowder and the Suns resulted in Phoenix allowing him to remain away from the team, with pay, until a relocation could be accommodated.
“It was like unfamiliar territory,” Crowder, 32, said of sitting out more than half the season. “I’ve never done that before in my 10-year career. So it was like something totally different. But I tried to hone my craft and work as hard as I could to be ready for whatever happened.”
The signing with the Bucks brought Crowder back to where he played collegiately at Marquette.
Crowder will be a free agent this summer, after earning $10.2 million on the final season of the three-year contract he got from the Suns when he left the Heat in the 2020 offseason in free agency.
With the Heat unveiling their White Hot player introduction at Saturday’s game, the team included two-way players Jamal Cain and Orlando Robinson in the package, even though the two are ineligible for the postseason.
The entire 17-player roster is featured, including sidelined rookie big man Nikola Jovic, who is out due to back spasms, with Herro featured prominently, despite being out with his broken hand.