The Miami Heat took to the practice court at the AmericanAirlines Arena on Wednesday to prepare for Game 3 against the Philadelphia 76ers and with plenty at stake. With their 2018 NBA Playoffs first round series tied at 1-1, the Heat’s first home playoff game in two years will undoubtedly be just as physical and intense as the previous two games.
Needless to say, Justise Winslow is looking forward to it. Now an NBA veteran after his first taste of the postseason in his rookie season, Winslow welcomes the physicality that naturally comes with the playoffs and believes it suits his game. He described himself as a student of the game and has been studying playoffs games from the 80s and 90s on ESPN Classic in preparation.
“They don’t let us play that physical but there’s definitely an increase in physicality and intensity,” he noted. “The refs let you play a little more in the playoffs. The first game we didn’t really understand that and the intensity that we needed to bring. So that’s what we brought in the second game and just raising everything to another level, our intensity and our focus, and we ended up getting the win.”
Raising his defensive intensity is right up his alley and if that means ruffling some feathers to get what he wants, then so be it.
“I can be the bad guy if it means winning,” Winslow said with a smile. “I know some of those guys. But in between the lines, I don’t like them. I don’t like them at all. Nothing personal, nothing dirty, but it’s going to get physical.”
Dwyane Wade is also focused solely on getting a win. He’s well aware it would be unrealistic to expect another 28-point performance on a regular basis out of his 36-year-old body with plenty of postseason miles on the odometer. But what he can do every game is continue to play his role of facilitator and playmaker for his teammates.
“I’m not worried about encores, I’m just worried about trying to help this team win,” he said. “I’ve had my day in the sun where I needed to show you all scoring 30 or 40 nights after nights. I did that, we won a championship. Right now, it’s just about being a leader and giving this team what they need on different nights.”
The three-time champion feels he doesn’t have to prove anything to show what he has left in the tank.
“I’m done proving to people,” he insisted. “I don’t need to. I’m here for these guys, for these individuals, for the city and this organization. So, I just want to have these moments for these guys when I can. And my ability to be able to play the way I did last game depended on a lot of individuals and what they brought to the game. There’s so many guys that had great moments in that game. It allowed me to score and make the plays I needed to make.”
For his part, he can’t wait to get back on the home court and give the fans what they want.
“This is the best time for basketball fans, for basketball players,” he said. “There is nothing like the playoffs, man. Our crowd is going to be ecstatic, excited, especially after missing the playoffs last year and getting the opportunity to get back and let their voices be heard.
“We cannot wait for that energy, but after that energy fades away it’s the game of basketball and we have to figure out a way to win a game versus a very good team that we’ve been evenly matched up against all year. There’s no home advantage in this series. I feel like each game the better team is going to win that night and we need to be the better team tomorrow.”