INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - As panic ensued along South Beach and the national scrutiny intensified, the Miami Heat decided to chill out.
After the storm, there was silence.
One day after they lost by 19 points and Dwyane Wade lost his cool in Game 3 against a balanced Indiana team growing in confidence and not getting nearly enough credit, the Heat canceled Friday’s practice and media availability. They stayed back in their downtown hotel to recharge mentally and physically.
Miami needed a short-term escape.
A team that loves the spotlight dodged it for a day.
Trailing 2-1 in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals and with Chris Bosh unlikely to return in this series, the Heat are in trouble and have two days to regroup before a Game 4 that LeBron James has already deemed vital to the team’s NBA championship chase.
“It’s a must win, honestly,” the league MVP said after Game 3. “We’ve just got to go out and play.”
The Pacers also took advantage of the two-day break _ per NBA rules, teams are not typically required to meet with the media when there are two off days between games and they do not practice _ between games to rest and recover. They chose not to practice either, but coach Frank Vogel doesn’t have nearly the issues facing Miami’s Erik Spoelstra, whose team appeared to unravel during Thursday’s loss.
As the Pacers pulled away in the third quarter, Wade, having one of the worst playoff games of his career, got into an ugly sideline exchange with Spoelstra. An angry Wade appeared to swear at his coach before brushing him aside and then had to be steered away from the coach’s huddle by several teammates.
“We’ve got a lot of alpha males in this locker room,” said veteran forward Udonis Haslem, who managed to settle down Wade. “It’s all constructive criticism. I don’t think it’s personal with anybody. Emotions get high. It’s the playoffs.”
Spoelstra tried to dismiss the confrontation with Wade following the game, but the damage was done and the sight of one of Miami’s “Big Three” arguing with his coach raised questions about the Heat’s future should they again fall short of a title.
“We’re all connected,” Spoelstra said. “Dwyane and I have been together for a long time, a long time. We’ve been through basically everything. A lot of different roles, a lot of different teams. That really is nothing. That type of fire, shoot, that’s good.
“That is the least of our concerns. Our concern is getting ready for Sunday.”
Wade’s health, however, is a major worry.
The eight-time All-Star is clearly not himself. He’s not making explosive moves to the basket and settling for jump shots that aren’t falling.