Basketball / Sports

Heat hot at home, but Pacers rolling on road

MIAMI -- The home advantage this postseason has been undeniable. The Miami Heat are the last team standing in the playoffs without a home loss.

The concern for Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is that the Indiana Pacers have made themselves at home on the road this postseason, arriving to Saturday's Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals on a five-game road winning streak.

"You have to have a great sense of urgency to be able to defend your home. But it doesn't guarantee you anything, and that's probably what our group has learned more than anything," Spoelstra said, with the best-of-seven series tied 1-1 heading into the first of consecutive home games for the Heat, with Game 4 on Monday night. "While you play with great comfort and confidence at home, you still have to put together a great basketball game, and it has to be with all the things we continually talk about: the effort, the disposition we brought the other night."

The desperation displayed in Tuesday's Game 2 victory in Indiapolis, after losing Game 1, hasn't always been there for the Heat this postseason, even at home, when Spoelstra's team had to salvage an opening-round victory against the Charlotte Bobcats with a final-seconds defensive stop, and then had to rally late to finish off the Brooklyn Nets in their most recent home appearance, the Game 5 victory over the Brooklyn Nets a week ago Wednesday.

Guard Dwyane Wade appreciates how quickly homecourt advantage can expire, which is why he doesn't expect a veteran team like the Pacers to be shaken from Tuesday's home loss.

"They won a game here last year," he said of Game 2 of the 2013 Eastern Conference finals. "Our homecourt advantage went away, and we had to figure out a way to get it back.

"It's not really a body blow when you're a good team and you can win on the road."

Heat power forward Udonis Haslem said this is a series about far more than homecourt, "We said coming in, this series, both teams can win on either floor."

With the series assured of at least one more game in Indiana, next Wednesday's Game 5, both teams recognize it is about more than venues.

"It's a long series," Heat center Chris Bosh said. "When you get this far into the playoffs, you're playing a team that's good at home and on the road. So we have to play a good game.

"This is by no means close to being over. So we have to protect home court in Game 3 and start from there."

Bosh, though, said Friday there is a different feel to the series, with the Heat mostly accustomed to hosting the first two games of a series, rather than the third and fourth.

"This is just an order we haven't played many times," he said.

Pacers forward David West said there has been a much greater focus on the fundamentals on the road in the postseason, after a 21-20 regular season on the road. There might have to be, with the Pacers 1-7 in their last seven visits to AmericanAirlines Arena, counting the regular season and playoffs.

"Just got to take care of the basketball, stay within ourselves," he said, "can't go out trying to make things up, stick to what we do."

But there also is an appreciation of the increased intensity deeper in the postseason.

"I know their crowd is going to try to get into our heads, and we just have to be mentally sharp, be focused and just be prepared to win," said Pacers guard Lance Stephenson, who expects it even might get personal, considering his curious history against the Heat that includes a $5,000 NBA fine for a Game 2 flop against LeBron James.

"Definitely the crowd is going to try to get under my skin," he said. "I know there's a guy that sits right on the courtside, he always tries to get into my head. So I've got to block him out, stay focused and just stay with my team, make something happen."

Wade said he is confident the Heat can make even more happen.

"For us, we haven't played as well as we've wanted to yet," he said. "We feel we have another level to reach. I don't think we've played our best basketball."

(c)2014 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

Visit the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) at www.sun-sentinel.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services


Comments

blog comments powered by Disqus