Heat's goal is health, not top seed

It's a dilemma that has even James conflicted. Moments after suggesting the Heat should err on the side of health if anyone's status were questionable, James then described how Friday will be approached with the same intensity and emotion as if a trip to the NBA Finals were at stake instead of top seeding.

"It doesn't matter how a team is struggling; once they play us we already know what we're going to get," James said of the Pacers, who have lost five of seven games since beating Miami last month. "It's going to be one of those games where it's going to feel like a Game 7, so we look forward to it."

Neither team has seemed to handle the prosperity of first place well during the past three weeks. Indiana dropped three games in a row after the 84-83 home win against the Heat. In a span of five days, the Pacers squandered their three-game lead and allowed Miami to moonwalk its way into the top spot.

Of course, the Heat returned the favor when a double-overtime loss to the  Timberwolves last week was followed by a win over the  Knicks and then the two losses to the  Nets and Grizzlies. The Pacers basically dared the Heat to keep the No. 1 seed with decision to sit all of their starters against the  Bucks.

So despite the injuries, lineup adjustments and late-game execution issues the Heat have dealt with lately, they still have a chance to get a firm grasp of the most slippery seed in the postseason races.

"I wish it would feel better," Heat forward/center Chris Bosh said of his team's position. "But that's what it's about. It's just about surviving tough situations. The most important thing for us is to be healthy. But with all of that said and done, we have a chance to control our fate. We are in a very unique position. But I think we can get it done without burning ourselves out mentally and physically."

Spoelstra said he can appreciate how Friday's game sets up for fans of both teams, but there are also other factors in play. James has endured a much heavier load than anticipated in recent games, with the Heat in the midst of six straight against teams battling for playoff position.

That stretch continues after Friday's game, with Saturday's visit to Atlanta completing another back-to-back set against a  Hawks team fighting to hold off the Knicks for the eighth seed in the East. The Heat's two-game trip wraps up Monday against the  Wizards, who are battling the  Bobcats for the sixth seed.

Spoelstra didn't sound like a coach who planned to ease up, at least heading into the weekend. He scoffed at the notion that James could be mentally or physically fatigued.

"No. We'll be fine," Spoelstra said. "That's a crutch that any of us could use when we don't find a way to win. Did anybody have mental fatigue or mental fatigue in the third quarter [Wednesday] when we were up four or six? Then all of sudden it shifts. That's a common excuse in pro sports. We love the position we're in. Nobody else is in this position to have to deal with serial success of the past three years. We're not using it as an excuse, and we don't expect anyone else to make an excuse for it."

James' response?

"It is what it is," he said. "I don't make any excuses, man. It's been tough on all of us."

Regardless of the outcome against the Pacers, who have won two of the first three in the season series, James looks forward to the Heat soon being whole for the games a bit more meaningful than Friday's.

"It's some sense of worry, of course," James said of regaining rhythm with Wade, Andersen and Haslem. "For the most part, we haven't played too many minutes together. So we can have some type of worry about that. But I'd rather be worried about us being out there together than not. Our team is built on all of us being out on the floor. Once we get everyone back, then we can get everything rolling."

-- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 23290886.
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...
See It, Share It
PHOTO: Kanye West accepts the Vanguard Award onstage during the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on August 30, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.
Christopher Polk/MTV1415/Getty Images
PHOTO:Parker Posey, Courteney Cox Arquette and David Arquette in Wes Cravens Scream 3.
Joseph Viles/Dimension Films/Getty Images