They go into this afternoon’s playoff clash with the Knicks at the Garden with a commanding 3-0 lead in the Eastern Conference opening-round series. They can finish off Carmelo Anthony’s crew today, ending the Knicks’ season and moving Miami into the Eastern semifinals.
The Heat also are riding a three-game winning streak when it comes to closeout games in the playoffs. In last season’s first round, up 3-0 on the 76ers, the Heat lost Game 4. But Miami won Game 5, then also knocked out both the Celtics and Bulls in each series’ first closeout game.
“You just never relax, never let a team get comfortable. Especially at home,” Dwyane Wade said yesterday. “You try to learn from your mistakes. I thought last year we did a good job of learning from that when it came to the next two rounds.”
The Heat are unbeaten against the Knicks this year, beating them all three games in the regular season and now grabbing a 3-0 advantage in this series.
“This is a great opportunity for us to be the first team that can put somebody away in the first round,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We know it won’t be easy. We know they’ll play with great desperation here in this building. And there’ll have to be a consistent, focused, forceful effort for 48 minutes to close them out.”
The Heat had Chris Bosh back at practice yesterday, after the power forward went to Miami on Friday to be with his newborn son. Bosh flew back yesterday morning and was at practice at the Garden, so there are no issues regarding whether he’ll be able to play in Game 4.
The Heat are completely fine if the Knicks’ Amar’e Stoudemire ends up being a go after skipping Game 3 with a lacerated left hand.
“When a guy’s a game-time decision, you assume he’s playing,” Shane Battier said. “Especially in the playoffs.”
Assume also that LeBron James is going to be a target for fan vitriol again today. James is the Garden’s favorite villain, and the superstar isn’t dismissing the idea the New York crowd might be even louder or angrier than it was in Game 3.
“Expect the unexpected when it comes with Knick fans,” he said. “They can be as loud as they want to be, but as a team we understand that’s gonna happen and it may happen. We’ve just got to be ready.
“I think I’m looked at more differently than any other player in the postseason right now on the road. [Being on the road is] always fun for me and I’m looking forward to it.”
A Heat win today and they will face either the Pacers or Magic in the semifinals. Otherwise, they will host Game 5 versus the Knicks on Wednesday.
“Obviously we know it’s a closeout game, and we want to close it out, but at the same time, we can’t go into the first possession of the game saying, ‘We’ve got to close this game out,’ ” Wade said. “We’ve got to play the game. We’ve got to play it just as hard, just as smart as we have been.”