SAN ANTONIO — For the past 24 hours, when you’ve asked coach Erik Spoelstra or the Heat players what adjustments they need to make to bounce back from a 3-1 deficit against the Spurs, you get some variant of “we just need to do what we do better.” It’s not new lineups or new match ups — Game 5 Sunday night will be the 14th meeting between these teams since the start of last year’s Finals, these teams know each other.
It’s about execution and that’s what Erik Spoelstra said he has emphasized in the last 48 hours.
“We met yesterday and talked about our approach for the next 24 hours,” Spoelstra said before Game 5. “We had a good day of work the day before that. We had a good day off to clear our minds, and this is about bringing our best game of the series….
“We’re looking to start better, but regardless of what happens, we have to find a way in this game. And we need consistent minutes where we’re imposing our identity on this game, which we’ve yet to do for an entire game.”
Maybe that is because they are coming out of a soft Eastern Conference, where they didn’t have to play at their peak for 48 minutes to advance. Maybe it’s because this is Game 14 between these teams since the start of last year’s Finals and San Antonio has gotten used to the pressure and style of the Heat.
Whatever the reason, this is not the first adversity the Heat have faced and this gives Spoelstra confidence.
“I love being in the trenches with this group when you’re in situations like this,” Spoelstra said. “You reveal your character. You real what you’re made out of when you’re facing adversity. Everybody can bid in the situation that the Spurs are in right now. It’s much more revealing when you’re in a situation like this how you respond, individually or collectively. How do we respond in a game like this? I love bing in the locker room with these guys in these situations.”
We will see what the Heat locker room is like after this game. That also could be telling.
Dwyane Wade has earned his status as an elder statesman, the E.F. Hutton kind of veteran who speaks and everybody listens.
Rookie Justise Winslow is listening.
Winslow (who should have gone higher in this draft) is a perfect fit for the Heat and he’s going to be part of their rotation off the bench from the start of the season (along with Josh McRoberts and Amare Stoudemire). Wade has already fully stepped into the mentor role with Winslow working with him on post moves, reports Jason Lieser at the Palm Beach Post.
“As his career develops, hopefully he’s able to do multiple things on the floor, but right now there’s gonna be certain things (Erik Spoelstra) wants him to do, and some of those things I’m good at,” Wade said. “I’m just passing down knowledge to someone who I think could be good at things that I have strengths at. It’s gonna take a while, but if he figures it out at 21, he’s ahead of the curve. I figured it out at like 27.
“All of us are where we’re at because someone before us helped us. They helped by letting us sit there and watch film with them or having conversations with them. If he’s a student of it and he really wants to know, I’m a pretty decent teacher in certain areas.”
This is what you want out of a veteran leader and some of the young teams out there have done an excellent job adding this kind of mentor — Kevin Garnett in Minnesota may be the best example. Someone who can pass on his wisdom and show the team’s young players how to be a professional and win in the NBA.
It’s a little different for Winslow, he and the Heat are more in a win-now mode, but he should be able to contribute to that.
Bill Bridges, a star as a Kansas Jayhawk who went on to have a 12-year NBA career that included being part of the 1975 Golden State Warriors championship team, has passed away, according to the University of Kansas.
Bridges was an undersized power forward at 6’6″ but he was a beast on the boards who averaged 11.9 rebounds a game for his career and more than 13 a game for six straight years at the peak of his career. That 11.9 per game average is still 27th all-time in NBA history.
A New Mexico native, Bridges was a three-time All-Star (all as a member of the Hawks), two-time All-NBA Defensive team, and was part of the 1975 Warriors title team. Besides the Hawks (St. Louis and Atlanta) and Warriors, Bridges played for the Sixers and Lakers.
Our thoughts are with his family and friends.