Considering the magnitude of the Miami Heat’s failures in their recent loss to the Orlando Magic, the immediate reaction was Erik Spoelstra’s team had to change everything with the approach.
But as the teams prepare for Sunday’s nationally televised rematch at AmericanAirlines Arena, the Heat aren’t about to change anything.
Not when playing this well. Not amid this run of 16 victories in their last 19 games.
The same system that seemingly failed the Heat in that Feb. 8 loss at the Amway Center, when Magic center Dwight Howard went for 25 points and 24 rebounds and Orlando converted 17 3-pointers, has steeled into something frankly quite awesome.
Get the FREE Miami Hoops iPhone and Android app
After that loss in Orlando, the Heat won the concluding five games to their six-game trip by double digits. As a matter of perspective, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, only one other team has won five consecutive games, all on the road, by 10 or more points, the 1969-70 New York Knicks.
Same system. Better results.
“You stay with your core values,” forward Shane Battier said. “The only time you really make wholesale changes is in a playoff series.
“I have a saying, ‘Don’t fail the plan, let the plan fail you.’ As long as you do that, you’ll be OK.”
The Heat lately couldn’t be more in sync with their system. To power forward Udonis Haslem, the failings that night in Orlando were not systematic.
“I don’t think we played hard enough. So it’s a combination of playing harder and doing things a little smarter,” he said. “But I think, first and foremost, you’ve got to do it harder and that’s what we didn’t come out doing.”
Forward LeBron James said the Heat emerged a stronger team from that loss, one steeled for the remainder of the trip.
“It’s important for us to come in with a great mindset like we did on this trip and play with an edge like we’re on the road, still,” he said. “We need to continue to play with an edge, like we’re on the road, even though we’re going home, and not be comfortable.”
After 10 days on the road, the Heat had Saturday off, with the exception of time in the training room for banged-up players. That means a brief, pregame walkthrough at AmericanAirlines Arena will be the limit of game-planning.
To Haslem, it is typical of the lockout-compacted schedule, and all the more reason to put the focus on doing it harder and better, rather than trying to throw a changeup at the Magic.
“It’s tough to change anything offensively, change anything defensively this season between games,” he said. “So, basically, you get into the film, you really focus in on the walkthrough and try to go hard in the games.”
By staying true to the current system, it will provide an updated read about whether this roster has enough in place to counter a power presence such as Howard, who is coming off Friday’s 26-point, 20-rebound performance against the Milwaukee Bucks.
In the teams’ only previous meeting this season, Spoelstra utilized Joel Anthony, Dexter Pittman, Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem against Howard. But Eddy Curry, brought in ostensibly for such moments, never got off the bench. The Heat also continue to be linked to free-agent centers Joel Przybilla and Kyrylo Fesenko.
To Spoelstra, though, it is about playing better, harder, stronger.
“We were all disappointed with that loss,” he said. “They played extremely well and we had an opportunity at the start of the third quarter to get back into it and to make a run at it there at the end.
“But they outplayed us and we haven’t forgotten that and they’ve played well since then.
We have an opportunity now to meet them again.”
And meet them without flinching from an approach that otherwise has proven flawless these past two weeks.
“I’ve played with some great defensive coaches and all of ‘em had belief and confidence in their systems,” Battier said. “Here it’s no different, and it’s been pretty successful thus far. So we’re not going to overreact to a game where you face some hot shooting.”
email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/iraheatbeat