All Iman Shumpert remembers is being so tired he spent most days sleeping until game time.
When the New York Knicks endured their first stretch of three games in consecutive nights, finding rest was the priority. They had lost the first two before finding an unlikely energy source the final night against the New Jersey Nets.
“Man, it was tough,” Shumpert said. “You feel it in your legs. That third game we were dead. Thank God, Jeremy [Lin] came in with fresh legs when played the Nets.
Lin scored 25 points in his breakthrough performance. The question for the Miami Heat is where will they find their energy boost during their grinding stretch.
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The Heat begin a back-to-back-to-back Sunday against the Atlanta Hawks at Phillips Arena.
The grueling stages were created because of the lockout-shortened season. A total of 42 will occur this season, meaning some teams will endure it twice.
Unlike the Knicks, who played two games at home, the Heat have all three on the road with stops at Milwaukee and Indiana.
“Just take it one game at a time,” Heat forward Udonis Haslem said.
“There is nothing we can do. We can’t rest ourselves and say, ‘Hey, we’re going to take it easy tonight and get ready for it.’ No, we’ve got to come out and we’ve got to play every game as hard as we possibly can. If you get tired, ask for a sub, you get your rest and come back in.”
Heat forwards LeBron James and Chris Bosh both compared the stretch to their days of playing summer-travel basketball. They played as many as three games in one day. That was also when they were teenagers with endless energy.
“I could just wake up out of my sleep and go to those games,” James joked before a recent practice.
Swingman Mike Miller said playing on two consecutive nights was already tough. Adding a third to the mix just makes it even more challenging.
“It’ll be tough,” Miller said.
“We’ll learn a lot about ourselves, a lot about our bodies when we get done with that. … In the 12 years that I’ve played now, you’ve talked about how tough the back-to-backs are. Now, back-to-back-to-back is just going to make it that much tougher. We’ve got a lot of depth on this team. We’ll try to utilize it and try to get some wins.”
Surprisingly, teams have fared better than expected. In fact, teams were 10-8 through Sunday in the final game of the back-to-back-to-back. The Knicks went as far as calling the experience the turning point of their season.
They have won four in a row, including Friday’s victory against the Los Angeles Lakers.
“It was challenging for everybody,” Knicks forward Jared Jeffries said. “It put everybody’s body to the test. But for us, it really gave us momentum. For whatever reason, we started to play well.”
Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni prepared for the stretch by making practices less strenuous. Workouts were shortened leading up to the games.
“The coaches did a great job of mentally getting us rest,” Jeffries said. “He lessened the workload in the practices and made sure to get guys healthy.”
Still, it’s not something they would like to see become an NBA mainstay.
“It was just tiring,” Shumpert said.
“Your body, it’s hard to get loose. Even when you’re loose, the shots that you think you’re shooting dead on are short. You see a loose ball you should’ve gotten to, and you don’t. It takes a toll.”