No, this is not a Miami Heat season for the faint of heart.
Then again, perhaps that is exactly what it is, considering fainting or palpitations would be two logical reactions to what has been transpiring for Erik Spoelstra’s team.
The latest example of Miami mayhem was Tuesday night’s 100-97 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, a game not decided until Cleveland’s Donovan Mitchell was off with a potential game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer.
“Guys feel at least comfortable enough to be able to execute under that kind of context and pressure,” Spoelstra said of his team’s journey this season. “And then that helps.”
There certainly has been ample practice.
Tuesday was the Heat’s 17th game decided by three or fewer points, at 11-6 in those games.
It was the team’s 27th game decided by five or fewer, with a 17-10 record under that math.
Taken to a higher degree, it was the Heat’s league-high 35th game delineated by NBA metrics as a “clutch” game, a game that has the margin of five or fewer points at any point in the last five minutes, with a 20-15 record in those matchups.
So far this season, the Heat, at 29-23 overall, have played a league-high 150 clutch minutes, have scored a league-high 335 clutch points (a distant second are the Dallas Mavericks at 290), and have a league-high 23 clutch steals.
If practice makes perfect, there yet could be a residual payoff to the mayhem.
“The more experience you have in any situation, the more comfortable and better you’re going to be,” forward Jimmy Butler said, with the Heat turning their attention to Thursday night’s game against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. “Yes, we have been in a lot of close games for many years now. So anybody can take any shot. Anybody is there to get any stop. We know what it takes to win games. But close games? Maybe we’re starting to get the hang of this now.”
As others scramble in such moments, it has become another night at the office for the Heat, albeit a harried, hectic, harrowing night.
“We don’t feel pressure,” said guard Tyler Herro, who tied Tuesday night’s game with a four-point play midway through the fourth quarter. “It’s a big moment in a big game, but that’s what you work for. At the end of the day, that’s what you want, you want a competitive game against competitive players, and we got that.
“It’s been the case for most games, but I think going into the playoffs, that’s what we need. We need to be in that situation, so we’re prepared for anything at the end of the year.”
There certainly has been ample practice.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say you’re comfortable in these moments,” Spoelstra said. “My stomach certainly doesn’t feel like that. But our guys are competitors. They love how that feels in the last six minutes of the game, if it’s a possession game. At times it drives me crazy.
“And then some of the things we’ve just repeated reps, you understand what your fourth-quarter package is, you understand where the ball needs to go, you understand how you’re going to execute under duress against different coverages, and then different guys stepping up.”
Typically it transpires without the opportunity to exhale until the final buzzer, which again was the case Tuesday, with Spoelstra again opting not to foul late with his team up three.
“We talk about it all the time,” Spoelstra said of the option of sending the opposition to the line for two foul shots in such situations. “That’s a philosophical thing that is a much deeper conversation.”
So there was Mitchell, at another all-or-nothing moment at the end of a Heat clutch game.
“They know who to key in on at that point,” Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “But I thought he did a great job of creating separation and getting a shot off. I thought we got as good a look.”
After missing, Mitchell acknowledged such are the lessons against a team that has been there, done that.
“You saw a team,” he said, “that’s been there and then you saw a team that hasn’t been there as a group.”
Source: Berkshire mont
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