Erik Spoelstra has helped lead the Miami Heat to five Eastern Conference finals appearances in his 12 seasons as head coach.
That's a lot, but even Spoelstra appreciates how challenging it is to reach that point.
"I want our guys to just step back at least for a night, if not two nights and just reflect," Spoelstra said following the Heat's series-clinching win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday night. "It's not easy to get to the conference finals and our organization knows that. We've been trying desperately to get back to the conference finals. It's not our ultimate goal, we get it. But you can still acknowledge the journey and how hard it is just to get to this point."
The Heat is on its way to the conference finals for the first time since the final season of the Big 3 era in 2014. This marks Miami's eighth appearance in the conference finals during Pat Riley's 25 seasons with the organization.
The Heat is also only the second No. 5 seed to advance to the conference finals since 2000, with the only other coming in the 2013 playoffs when the fifth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies were swept by the second-seeded San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference finals.
"That is why we brought Jimmy Butler here, that is why we put this team together with the veterans and added Andre (Iguodala) and Jae (Crowder), building around Goran (Dragic) and Bam (Adebayo), and having a young core was to try to do something in the playoffs," Spoelstra said. "It's not easy to get to the conference finals. Otherwise every team would be doing it. And we've been at this for 25 years under the Riley-Arison leaderhip. We've tried every single year to just get to this level. It just shows you how competitive this league is. It doesn't happen every year, and we don't take it for granted."
The Heat will take on the winner of the second-round series between the Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference finals. The Celtics hold a 3-2 second-round series lead over the Raptors, with Game 6 set for Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.
Miami could have a full week off if the East finals don't begin until Tuesday, as some around the league expect.
Here's what we've learned about the Heat during its 8-1 start to the playoffs: