Battier is not about to let this opportunity go to waste, which is why he was diving all over the floor on Wednesday night, sacrificing his body to help close out the in their first-round playoff series. Miami scored a in Game 5 at AmericanAirlines Arena, and Battier reached the second round of the playoffs for just the third time in his 11-year career. He knows time is running out.
“That’s why I’m here; that’s why I signed with the Heat,” Battier said before the game. “I could have gone elsewhere and maybe played more or got paid more money, but I came here to compete for a championship.”
Joining forces with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh is not a bad tactic to choose when winning it all is the goal.
Even with Wade going scoreless in the first quarter and James not hitting his first field goal until midway through the second, it was clear the Heat wanted to end the series at home. Wade exploded for 12 points in the second quarter, hitting back-to-back fadeaways late to help create an 11-point halftime cushion, and Miami expanded that lead to 18 in the third.
“Watching those games yesterday, where three teams had the opportunity to close it out and not being able to close it out, Coach wanted us to prove tonight that we were ready to close it out here at home,” Wade said. “I think the two major places we put emphasis on was turnovers and rebounding the ball, and we took care of that.”
James took on the task of defending the Knicks’ top scoring threat, Carmelo Anthony. While Anthony hit his share of shots, James matched him on the offensive end and did just enough defensively to frustrate Anthony. He finished with 29 points to Anthony’s 35.
James said the Heat were very conscious of expanding their lead after it reached 55-44 at halftime.
“It was good that we were able to do that,” he said. “We had an 11- or 12-point lead in Game 4, and we weren’t able to bump it up to 15 or 16 where Coach Woodson would have had to call a timeout. We allowed them to get back in the game.”
The last two times Battier reached the conference semifinals, his team was eliminated in seven games. Last year, his Memphis Grizzlies went the distance with the Oklahoma City Thunder, and in the 2008-9 season his Houston Rockets lost to the Los Angeles Lakers, who went on to win the N.B.A. title.
“Right now it’s about being instinctual,” said Battier, who said he still drew on his experiences at Duke under Mike Krzyzewski. “Obviously, you need to have good technique, but in the postseason you have to perform with your instincts. That was Coach K’s biggest mantra in the postseason, you can’t overthink it, you just have to go out there and make plays.”
Coach Erik Spoelstra said Battier embodied everything the Heat needs to be to advance.
“I think if you took his minutes during the course of the game, he probable spent half of his minutes on the floor,” Spoelstra said.