The Heat are preparing for the most important week of the season in their effort to avoid the play-in tournament, writes Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. Miami is seventh in the East at 39-34, three-and-a-half games behind the Knicks and one game behind the Nets. The Heat will host New York on Wednesday and then will welcome Brooklyn on Saturday.
“It’s like our March madness, our April madness. It really is,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I see the similarities right now. Every game is a must-win. And if you’re a competitor, you have to love this. Maybe not exactly where we are and how we got here. It doesn’t matter.”
The Heat didn’t expect to be fighting for a playoff spot after posting the best record in the East last season, but a combination of injuries and inconsistent play has resulted in a disappointing year. Although the players would prefer the security that comes with a top-six finish, they believe they can be a tough playoff matchup from any spot.
“As long as we win, I think we’re going to be all right, no matter what place we’re in,” Jimmy Butler said, “whether we’re in the play-in, whether we’re the eight seed against the one. As long as you win, I don’t think you have too much to worry about.”
There’s more from Miami:
- The Heat’s defense has imploded since the All-Star break, but the blame shouldn’t fall on new addition Kevin Love, Chiang adds in another Miami Herald story. Chiang notes that Miami’s defensive rating has actually been better with Love in the game, although that’s partially because he usually shares the court with Butler and Bam Adebayo.
- Gabe Vincent is trying to avoid being distracted by his upcoming free agency, but he admits it’s on his mind, per Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel. Vincent has taken over as Miami’s starting point guard while Kyle Lowry has been dealing with knee pain. “I feel like I have established myself in this league and showed everyone, all 30 teams, that I can play and I can help a team win,” Vincent said. “So in terms of being stressed out about it, I’m going to leave that to my agent and let him deal with it and just do what I can to help the Miami Heat the remainder of this year.”
- The Heat may not be done with Orlando Robinson, Winderman suggests in a separate story. He notes that Robinson is still eligible for four more NBA games on his two-way contract, and Spoelstra seems to have more confidence in him than Omer Yurtseven as the backup center. Winderman adds that Cody Zeller is likely to take that role whenever he returns from a broken nose.