MIAMI – Based on callers to radio sports-talk shows and some fan comments on social media here, one would think the Miami Heat are the ones on the brink of elimination from the N.B.A. playoffs.
But inside American Airlines Arena, the vibe from the players and Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra is quite the opposite. Two days removed from a tough 89-87 loss to the Knicks in Game 4 of their first-round matchup, Spoelstra, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are looking forward, not backward.
”You try to stick to the one-day rule as much as possible, but you know when you get back in the gym and it’s time to learn from it you still learn from it,” said Wade, whose last-second 3-pointer in Game 4 hit the front of the rim. ”After you leave here it’s out the window and you get prepared to play the next game.”
Wade and James were not about to be baited into reliving that final play and questioning who should have taken the last shot. The reality is, the Knicks trail, three games to one, in the best-of-seven series, and the Heat, the defending Eastern Conference champions, would like nothing better than to close out the series Wednesday night at home.
Spoelstra took the topic of that final possession head on, smiling throughout his answer as he explained the unique dynamic facing the Heat.
”We understand the decibel level of the noise will increase from outside any time we lose, but we have to stay true to our reality,” he said. ”Without getting too descriptive on what we were looking for, at the end of the day we had an open lane on that drive. We’ve seen Dwyane make those plays time and time again over the years. We’ll live with that. In the paint he lost the dribble but it was a pretty good opportunity to attack the rim. They defended him, it became a broken play, and we know what happened.”
There was a quiet confidence about the players at the end of practice and everyone appeared loose, with James trying unsuccessfully to distract Wade during his session with the news media after missing a free throw. He smiled widely and laughed while trying to get Wade’s attention, but Wade never took his eyes off the reporter who asked him a question.
James is well aware of how important it is to have a short memory in the N.B.A. playoffs, and that’s the approach he is taking heading into Wednesday night’s potential series-clinching game.
”You carry it with you for 24 hours, you go over what needs to be done to correct it, and you get rid of it,” James said. ”I’m not saying that you don’t care about it, but you’ve got to move on to the next game. You can’t let it linger too much. Game 4 for us is over. We’re preparing for Game 5 now.”
PAUL TAKES CHARGE One day after Chris Paul’s 27th birthday, he and the Los Angeles Clippers showed they are growing up splendidly together.
Paul scored 8 of his 27 points in a dynamic overtime performance, and the Clippers moved to the verge of their second playoff series victory in 36 years, taking a 3-1 series lead with a 101-97 win Monday night over the Memphis Grizzlies in Los Angeles.
The Clippers blew a 10-point lead late in regulation before finishing without Blake Griffin, who fouled out midway through overtime. It could have been another disaster for a franchise with more than its share, but Paul did not allow it.
”It’s fun, it’s exciting,” said Paul, who missed a chance to score at the regulation buzzer.
”The worst mistake I probably made in the game was not getting the shot at the end of regulation,” he added. ”If I was at home watching it on TV, I’d be talking so bad about me. But you’ve got to get through it. The thing about it is that I have teammates that have confidence in me. Everything that we do is a team win.”
Maybe so, but the Clippers were happy to rely on Paul, their All-Star point guard.
Griffin had 30 points and 7 assists before fouling out for the Clippers, who blew an 84-74 lead over the final four and a half minutes before Paul took charge in extra time. ”He’s a great player, and that’s what great players do,” Memphis Coach Lionel Hollins said.
Game 5 is Wednesday night in Memphis.
This is a more complete version of the story than the one that appeared in print.