Winnersville — Thought I’d check in early today because I went to the shoot-around (basketball term) and didn’t want to drive back home outside the perimeter, which would necessitate me turning back around to go to the game in a few hours and, given 400 traffic, would get me to my seat with approximately two minutes left in the first quarter.
The themes this morning were about what you would’ve expected.
1.) The Hawks do not want to take a step back.
2.) The Heat are determined not to play to the tempo of dirge again.
The most pointed comments probably came from Miami coach Erik Spoelstra, who, after briefly addressing potential adjustments and player rotations, said: “The most important thing is we come out with the right mentality, physicality and intensity. The way we were scrapping to get that fifth seed in the last three weeks – we didn’t have that in game one. We can talk about all of the offensive adjustments, rotations, playing time – all that stuff. Nonef that matters. You can drop kick that out the door if you don’t come with any intensity.”
Tonight should be interesting, not just from the adjustments standpoint but the psyches of the two teams. Game one was a smackdown. The Hawks’ Joe Johnson has been on the other side of that score before. When I asked him what the mindset of the athlete is coming off a loss like that, he said: “You just want to try to come out the next game and match their intensity. We were so eager to get out there and play — we just came out of the gates flying. You know what I mean? We were pressing, picking up full court. That’s tough [for another team to deal with], and we still had a lot of energy and we were feeding of the crowd and the energy in the building.”
Can the Hawks duplicate that intensity in game two?
“That’s going to be the challenge,” Johnson said. “It’s going to be a little tougher to duplicate that. The first game you’re always very high energy, very eager and desperate to get that first win. So now in game two, this is another challenge to see if we can duplicate that.”
SO WHAT WILL MIAMI DO? Not sure that this qualifies as a hint about how the Heat will try to attack the Hawks’ defense. But here’s what Dwyane Wade said after the morning practice: “They guard the rim pretty well with athleticism. It seems like they’re always around the basket. They give us something. A lot of the time, it’s the mid-range jumper, and you either hit or miss. We’ve got guys who can hit that shot. They just didn’t hit it Sunday.”
BACK TO THE SIDELINE: I watched game one on TV. One thing that stood out: Spoelstra looked lost. He didn’t have his team ready at the start. He failed to make any adjustments as the Hawks pulled away. The coaching battle was unquestionably won by Mike Woodson. A frequent poster who goes by “Snowman” posted a comment on my Josh Smith column the other day, saying: “How in the world did the Heat coach get 3 times more COY votes than Woodson is beyond me.”
Honestly, I wasn’t aware of the voting breakdown until I looked it up. But coach of the year awards often are determined, at least in part, by expectations-to-results ratio. The Heat went from 15-67 last year to 43-39 this season — the seventh-greatest win improvement (28) in NBA history. The Hawks improved by 10 wins, 37 to 47.
Even with that, Spoelstra finished only seventh in the voting, Woodson eighth. The award was won by Cleveland coach Mike Brown. Here’s the breakdown, for those who haven’t seen it:
|Coach (Team)||Votes: 1st place||2nd place||3rd place||Points|
|Mike Brown (Cavaliers)||55||21||17||355|
|Rick Adelman (Rockets)||13||24||14||151|
|Stan Van Gundy (Magic)||13||20||25||150|
|Nate McMillan (Trail Blazers)||15||14||10||127|
|George Karl (Nuggets)||11||16||14||117|
|Jerry Sloan (Jazz)||9||9||6||78|
|Erik Spoelstra (Heat)||2||8||19||53|
|Mike Woodson (Hawks)||1||3||3||17|
|Phil Jackson (Lakers)||1||3||3||17|
|Doc Rivers (Celtics)||1||2||4||15|
|Vinny Del Negro (Bulls)||1||1||1||9|
|Larry Brown (Bobcats)||-||1||3||6|
|Scott Skiles (Bucks)||-||-||1||1|
|Tony DiLeo (Sixers)||-||-||1||1|
|Rick Carlisle (Mavericks)||-||-||1||1|
PRE-GAME DINNER OF CHAMPIONS? Just came from the locker room. In case you were wondering what the Heat is feeding on before they try to even the series: They’re passing around a huge bag from Chick-fil-A. Presumably, they have to make other plans for a Sunday game.