MIAMI (CBSMiami) — The Miami Heat returned to the practice court on Thursday as they prepare for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals this Saturday night.
The Heat are fresh off of their big road win in Game 2 and are looking to stay undefeated at the American Airlines Arena during the 2014 NBA Playoffs.
A big part of the Heat’s Game 2 victory was attributed to a much better defensive effort against a Pacers team that scored 107 points against Miami in Game 1 despite averaging just 96.7 points per game during the regular season.
The Heat made some vital defensive adjustments during Tuesday’s 87-83 win in Indiana, and a topic of discussion following Miami’s practice on Thursday was that some of the changes came via suggestions from the players to Head Coach Erik Spoelstra. “They wanted to make a change. I’m fine with it as long as it’s not something crazy,” said Spoelstra when asked about the players’ suggestions. “Those guys have a feel for what’s going on the court even more so then (the coaching staff) because they’re out there experiencing it.”
The move that has been getting the most attention was to have Heat point guard Norris Cole defend the Pacers Lance Stephenson. Stephenson was scoring almost at will and making it very difficult for the Heat to get ahead in the game, but that changed once Cole was given the assignment. Generally the Heat would put LeBron James on their opponent’s best offensive player, but James wanted to guard the Pacers George Hill along with putting Cole on Stevenson, and the moves certainly paid off.
“We’ve been together long enough where we just place guys on certain matchups and we feel like that particular guy can control it,” said James. “I’m usually the culprit of putting guys in the position of where I want them to be defensively and then we have a system that guys just react.”
For a coaching staff to allow its players to dictate matchups there has to be a lot of trust on both ends. Dwyane Wade probably knows that better than anyone and he made sure that everyone else knew it as well. “We wouldn’t be champions if we didn’t have (trust),” said Wade following practice on Thursday. “We wouldn’t be the team that we are today if we didn’t have the trust from both sides.”
Many of Cole’s minutes came in the 2nd and 4th quarters of Game 2 and it’s no coincidence that Miami outscored Indiana 46-36 in those combined quarters. The Heat will be back on the practice floor on Friday.
As for the Pacers, All-Star forward Paul George was held out of practice on Thursday after suffering a concussion during the 4th quarter of Game 2 on Tuesday. He was on the court wearing a red, non-contact jersey but wasn’t permitted to partake in any drills or workouts. George was diagnosed with a concussion on Wednesday after visiting with the Pacers consulting neurologist and will need to be cleared by the NBA before he can play in Game 3 on Saturday.
League rules prohibit any player who has a concussion from participating in any team activities until they are evaluated by the team medical staff and cleared by both the team physician and Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher, the director of the NBA concussion program.
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