Dwyane Wade: Getting In On the Fun
Miami – In order to beat the Miami Heat you have to be disciplined, execute and play with poise if your objective is to complete a season-sweep of the defending champions.
The Portland Trail Blazers took down the Heat at the Rose Garden in early January, but tonight at American Airlines Arena, Trail Blazers Head Coach Terry Stotts felt like he needed a veteran presence to get this win tonight.
Stotts announced before the game that Sasha Pavlovic would be activated and Will Barton would be deactivated for tonight's game. That's all we knew at that point.
Little did we know Stotts approached Jared Jeffries, Pavlovic, and Ronnie Price during the team's shootaround this morning and said two words to them.
Rookie Meyers Leonard is usually the backup center to JJ Hickson but it was Jeffries checking in for Hickson at the 4:46 mark in the first quarter. Nearly three minutes later, it was Price subbing in for Damian Lillard and Pavlovic replacing Wesley Matthews.
If the Trail Blazers were able to pull out another shocker before heading to New Orleans, they would put themselves in position to exit this six-game trip at .500. With all that on the line, Stotts went with the guys with experience.
“It's tough for rookies to come in an environment like this against a team that plays like this,” Jeffries said. “So at shootaround this morning he told me to be ready. So I was able to prepare myself mentally to come out and help the team win.”
The Heat pulled away from the Trail Blazers in the fourth by going on a 16-3 run late to eventually defeat the Trail Blazers 117-104, handing the Trail Blazers a four-game losing streak.
LeBron James led the Heat with 30 points, six rebounds and nine assists. Chris Bosh added 32 points and 11 rebounds. Dwyane Wade put in 24 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.
The game was much closer than the outcome and it was due in large part to the three veterans who just got word of their assignment this morning. The stat-sheet won't reveal much, however you could see the defensive intensity pick up when they were in the game.
“I like their toughness. Jared, Ronnie, and Sasha have been in big games like this,” Stotts said. “...It was a tough game, you needed some toughness and having had some experience in these games and I felt like they were up to it.”
Jeffries was a +24 (the highest efficiency rating on the team) and hasn't played in three games, but found himself matched up against the All-Star Bosh for 20 minutes.
“If you can't get up for this game and play this game at a high level, you shouldn't be playing,” Jeffries said. “Games like this aren't that hard to get up for. As long as coach tells us at the beginning of the day to be ready, as a basketball player, you should look to prepare yourself all day to get out there and play.”
Price hasn't stepped on the court in five games and had a +8 in 10 minutes. Nolan Smith has been playing well as of late and Stotts has rewarded the second-year point guard with backup duties.
Just not tonight.
“Coach just told me to be ready,” Price said. “That means there was a chance that I might get in the game. I respect coach. It gives you time to prepare yourself a little bit more mentally if you haven't played in a while. So I respect coach for letting me know, just giving a little word simple as 'be ready.' A lot of coaches don't do that.”
Pavlovic has been dealing with a pulled muscle in his left foot and hasn't played since Jan. 29. Tonight he played 22 minutes and was asked to check the best player on the planet in James. The frontrunner for the MVP award got his numbers, but Pavlovic did finish with a +11.
“He (Stotts) knows we have a little bit of experience and we know how to play in big games like that and we tried to do our best,” Pavlovic said. “The little things we do, we tried to help our team win the game.”
Pavlovic played with James in Cleveland and knows some of his tendencies. Yet still, that guy is a handful.
“I can maybe stop him a couple of times but he is just so good,” Pavlovic said. “He can pass that ball, he can rebound the ball, he can do everything. He's going to get his. The only thing I can do is try to make it hard for him.”
All three player praised Coach Stotts for the way he handled their situation and rightfully so. Nonetheless, those same three player should also receive some praise for the way they've conducted themselves.
It's not easy not knowing when you're going to play next. Jeffries, Price, and Pavlovic are the true meaning of professionals.
“It doesn't matter when I play, I have to be ready when my number is called,” Jeffries said. “It's all about the team and I think we just have the right group of guys who are willing to sacrifice for the betterment of the team.
Lillard bounced back from a poor performance in Orlando to end with a game-high 33 points. Aldridge put in work on the interior going for 29 points and pulling down five rebounds.
Tomorrow's game in New Orleans is the final game on this trip for the Trail Blazers and they're in agreement that it's a game they got to have before the break.
“If we don't win that game, this trip is a failure,” Pavlovic said. “It would be a failure.”