Heat enjoy exhaling, success as they await the start of the Eastern Conference finals on Tuesday – The Denver Post

As soon as his team completed its second-round series Thursday night against the Philadelphia 76ers, Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra effectively banned his team from court time, declaring the next two days off.

When he spoke, it was still unclear if Spoelstra could be true to his word, with the possibility, at the time, of a Sunday afternoon start to the Eastern Conference finals still on the line.

With that possibility removed from the equation hours later, there will now be plenty of time to advance to the penultimate round of the playoffs, with the Eastern Finals kicking off on Tuesday at 8:30 pm at FTX Arena.

Spoelstra said he felt it was important for his team to savor the moment, even as more significant steps await.

“You want to acknowledge the steps along the way,” he said. “This is not easy. We have been doing this for 27 years, since Pat [Riley] reached South Florida, nine conference finals. But every year we have had that goal, to reach the [NBA] Finals and compete for a title.

“It’s not easy in this league. And he wanted everyone in the locker room to recognize him. It is not everything, but it is something. It’s a long trip. It’s a tough ride. You have to commit to something bigger than yourself.”

Spoelstra then paused to point out how reaching that level is particularly significant for those yet to reach such heights in the playoffs, noting that Victor Oladipo, in particular, had never made it out of the first round before.

“Take a couple of days off,” Spoelstra said, “and then we’ll see.”

Forward PJ Tucker noted how in late December and early January, the Heat were going with players on loan from the G League amid a team COVID outbreak and how so many had to step up amid injuries and season-long absences. season.

“It’s been crazy, this whole crazy year,” he said. “But it’s been a fun year, just because we’ve had so much adversity throughout the year, we’ve missed multiple games, we’ve played G League players, like we’ve got so many lineups and so many things.

“And being a top team in the East all year to get to this point now. . . being in the conference finals is crazy.”

While the Heat took care of the 76ers in six games, it still had the feel of a grueling series, with point guard Kyle Lowry sitting out the last two games with a recurrence of his hamstring strain and seven other players from the Heat at one time or another. during the 11 days listed in the NBA injury report. All but Lowry were available for the series-clinching victory Thursday night at Wells Fargo Center.

As the No. 1 seed in the East, the Heat will host Game 1 on Tuesday night and Game 2 on Thursday. If necessary, the Heat would also host Games 5 and 7. All games in the Eastern finals are at 8:30 pm ET.

Tickets for the Heat’s home games in the series went on sale Friday, with a limit of four tickets per home, per game.

The Heat will face the winner of the Milwaukee Bucks-Boston Celtics series.

Guard Max Strus through it all, the team bond has been strengthened.

“We believe in each other,” he said. “A lot of people say that, but our connection and mutual trust is there, it’s special. You can say.

“And it’s not just on the court, it’s off. We all really like each other and we enjoy each other and we love being around each other and we want to play hard for each other.”

Eastern Conference Finals

Game 1: Tuesday, FTX Arena, 8:30 p.m., ESPN

Game 2: May 19, FTX Arena, 8:30 p.m., ESPN

Game 3: May 21, in Boston or Milwaukee, 8:30 p.m., ESPN

Game 4: May 23, in Boston or Milwaukee, 8:30 p.m., ESPN

5* game: May 25: FTX Arena, 8:30 p.m., ESPN

Set 6*: May 27, in Boston or Milwaukee, 8:30 p.m., ESPN

Game 7*: May 29: FTX Arena, 8:30 p.m., ESPN

* – If necessary.

(There is no local television in the conference finals.)

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