Practice report: HEAT not taking #8 seed Bucks lightly

USA TODAY Sports

HEAT players well aware of the odds but they refuse to look ahead past the Milwaukee Bucks as the NBA Playoffs begin this weekend.

With coach Erik Spoelstra able to count on all of his players at today's Miami Heat practice, the focus was on the task at hand...beating the Milwaukee Bucks tomorrow and nothing else.

"Anybody that knows us, we've been conditioned now to learn how to live within the moment and that started three years ago," explained Spoelstra at the conclusion of practice. "The only thing we're thinking about is not even this series, we're thinking about tomorrow night and that's it. This is against a team that's challenged us during the regular season. They've come at us and they have some things that we have to certainly contend with."

Sure, it's a cliche to say that the Heat are ready to defend their title while taking it game by game, but this is a team so heavily favored to win it all that they might be forgiven if they couldn't help but look ahead. But this group of talented veterans have plenty of playoff experience and stories to tell from the past. Shane Battier reminisced about his playoff career after today's Heat practice.

"I've been an eight-seed before, in my second year of the playoffs with the Memphis Grizzlies against the Phoenix Suns (in 2005). We knew we had no shot. We approached that as a vacation almost, in the greater Scottsdale area. It was very nice, the wives came out, we stayed at the Biltmore, had a few margaritas, got smoked 4-0 and everyone went about their day. (laughs)

"The second time we were an eighth-seed in Memphis, when I was traded back there, it was a much different feeling. We had played the (San Antonio) Spurs late in the season and we knew we matched up very well with them. We legitimately thought we had a shot at winning the series from the first game. We went to San Antonio and beat them and we said 'we're winning this series.'

"It's not like it's a one-seed versus a sixteen-seed in an NCAA tournament. It's happened before and it's happened more regularly. So we respect Milwaukee, no question. In the last three years we haven't played them great, so we respect their abilities as a team and we'll play them accordingly."

LeBron James will most certainly win yet another MVP trophy but he won't be writing off the Bucks very quickly either.

"It's a very tough challenge but we look forward to it," James responded when asked about how the Heat will contain the quick backcourt duo of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis. "I think our guards are excited about the opportunity but it's not just about who's going to match up with them, it's about our whole team. Jennings and Monta do a good job of breaking down the defense with their quickness on pick-and-rolls and also in transition so we have to pay attention to it."

One of those players that will be assigned to guard the Bucks' duo is Dwyane Wade, who has been recovering from various minor injuries since the end of the winning streak but will be put to the test by the Bucks starting tomorrow.

"It gets no quicker than that in the backcourt. It's a great challenge for our backcourt. The Bucks have had a pretty good season versus us. Monta is a highly capable scorer and so it's going to be a challenge but I think it's something we're up for."

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