They walked off the practice court at 10:55 a.m. Sunday.
The only question was whether it was for the final time this season.
Down 3-2 in the NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks, the Miami Heat emerged confident after what could loom as their final shootaround of the season, as they completed preparations at AmericanAirlines Arena for Sunday’s 8 p.m. Game 6 of this best-of-seven series.
“Rarely is it an easy journey for a team,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Were not being overwhelmed by consequences.”
(Best-of-7 Mavs lead series 3-2)
Game 1: Miami 92, Dallas 84
Game 2: Dallas 95, Miami 93
Game 3: Miami 88, Dallas 86
Game 4: Dallas 86, Miami 83
Game 5: Dallas 112, Miami 103
Game 6: Sunday, Dallas at Miami, 8
Game 7:* Tuesday, Dallas at Miami, 9
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Spoelstra said all players went through the shootaround, including guard Dwyane Wade, who bruised his left hip in Thursday’s Game 5 loss in Dallas.
“He went through the whole shootaround,” Spoelstra said, with Wade held out of contact work Saturday.
Wade emerged ready to go.
“I felt OK,” he said of the shootaround. “I’ll feel better tonight.”
While Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle has altered his starting lineup in this series, replacing DeShawn Stevenson in his opening backcourt with J.J. Barea, and then moved forward Brian Cardinal into his reserve rotation in place of Peja Stojakovic, Spoelstra has remained static in the Finals.
His counter is he had been fluid during the playoffs, including the move of Joel Anthony into the starting lineup at center during the second round.
“I think we’ve probably made as many changes during the playoffs arguably as anybody,” he said, with forwards Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller moved into increased roles, as well. “But stability has been good for us. And what we’ve done is good enough in a possession game and a possession series until the end.”
When it comes to his pregame message, Spoelstra said he is prepared, but that doesn’t mean he will try to emulate coaching predecessor Pat Riley.
“Certainly there’s no way I can mimic Pat,” he said. “I love his stories. Each coach has a different way of motivating.”
Wade said Spoelstra has found his way.
“He’s getting better at his speeches, though,” Wade said. “He’s had a couple in this postseason where we’ve said, ‘yeah.’ “
Of all the outside noise that has surrounded his team since the start of training camp and has now built to a crescendo, Spoelstra said, “What we deal sometimes on the exterior can be very abnormal.”
Wade acknowledged it has been an uneven ride.
“There’s been times, probably, where we went through stages where we didn’t have fun with the game,” he said. “We’ve had fun; we haven’t had fun. We’ve celebrated; we haven’t celebrated.”
But, LeBron James said, “losing is never fun.”
James enters averaging 31 points, 10.1 rebounds and 7.5 assists in playoff elimination games.
“This is the last test,” he said. “This is the last pop quiz for us that we need to pass, in order to make it all worth it.”
As for the peripheral stuff, both said they have moved on, declining to further comment on the Thursday mockery of Dirk Nowitzki’s Game 3 fever.
“We don’t have a comment,” James said.
As for the Heat being viewed as the playoff villains, Wade smiled, noting where he, James and Chris Bosh had been not so long ago.
“It’s the world we live in,” Wade said. “A couple of years ago, 2008, we were playing for America in the Olympics, and we had the support of everyone in America. In ’11, we don’t.”
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