Basketball / Sports

Heat focused on here and now

MIAMI -- After a loss and a late-night return to South Florida, the practice court may not initially have been where the Miami Heat wanted to spend a rainy Thursday afternoon.

But after a night during which LeBron James was largely a spectator after getting into foul trouble early, after the Heat turned the ball over 17 times, and after Indiana ultimately kept its season alive with a 93-90 Game 5 win over Miami in the Eastern Conference finals, that's where the Heat were.

The hope? That a session in the gym would help the Heat put their mistakes behind them and help players refocus ahead of Friday's Game 6 at AmericanAirlines Arena, where a win will send them to the NBA Finals for a fourth consecutive year.

"I think everybody was a little bit ornery because we got in late (Wednesday) night. In an ideal situation, we stay in bed all day," center Chris Bosh said. "But just to be here, to get a little bit of work in, nothing crazy, to see each other and really just talk about some things and get on the same page, it's always good because we're going to play the best game of the year (Friday)."

Said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, "I wanted that anger and frustration and emotion today. (Friday), clear heads."

With the Heat holding a 3-2 lead in the series as it returns to Miami, there was no sense of panic Thursday.

Instead, there was plenty of conversation about quickly putting Game 5 behind them, of moving past the strange antics of Pacers guard Lance Stephenson, and focusing on nothing but what the Heat can control, namely cutting down turnovers, turning up the defensive intensity, and not letting the Pacers pull the Heat from their game.

"Obviously, we learn from our mistakes that we had (Wednesday) night and get better from it and apply it to the next game," said James, who was limited to a career playoff-low 7 points on 2-of-10 shooting in 24 minutes.

"It was frustrating last night, but I'm good now. Yesterday is old news. Today is a new opportunity and tomorrow is another opportunity to get better. So for me, I move on. That's why I'm able to stay who I am and be able to be better the next day."

What the Heat didn't want to do on Thursday was look beyond their immediate challenge.

A loss would send them back to Indianapolis for a Game 7 showdown on Sunday against the Pacers, who have already managed to stave off elimination three times this postseason. A win would give the Heat five full days of rest before the NBA Finals, which would begin on June 5 against the winner of the Western Conference finals matchup between San Antonio and Oklahoma City.

Neither of those things seemed to matter much to Spoelstra or his players Thursday.

"You have to compartmentalize in a series, and it's all about the task at hand," Spoelstra said. "We can't even live in the past about the game. That's why we came in today. And you can't think about the future. The only thing you think about is what we need to do to get (Friday's) game. No contest."

Pacers coach Frank Vogel said Thursday Indiana's approach is similarly as focused, with the caveat that he expects James to bounce back from Wednesday night's subdued performance.

That was a sentiment echoed by Dwyane Wade, who figures the four-time league MVP won't have another quiet night.

"It wasn't ideal for us to have him play 24 minutes, but I do know that guy and I know how he responds," Wade said. "So I'm good with it now. Now I'm good with it because I know he's going to come out and put his mark on the game, whichever way that may be, and that gives us the best opportunity to win."

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

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