Ready to ad­just plans

Spoel­stra al­ready has a de­fen­sive strat­egy for when Em­biid re­turns

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - NBA - iwin­der­man@sunsen­tinel.coml, Twit­ter ira­heat­beat or face­book.com/ira.win­der­man By Ira Win­der­man Staff writer

PHILADEL­PHIA — Plan A has turned into Plan B in this best-of­seven, open­ing-round NBA play­off se­ries against the Philadel­phia 76ers. But that doesn’t mean that Mi­ami Heat coach Erik Spoel­stra isn’t poised to pivot the mo­ment he sees Joel Em­biid back on the court.

With Em­biid miss­ing his 10th con­sec­u­tive game Mon­day night at Wells Fargo Cen­ter, the fo­cus of Spoel­stra and the Heat has turned to the ball­move­ment ap­proach of a 76ers of­fense that now has rookie point guard Ben Sim­mons as the fo­cus.

But Spoel­stra said at Mon­day’s shootaround at Tem­ple Univer­sity that there is an in-case-of-emer­gency en­ve­lope wait­ing to be opened the mo­ment that Em­biid is cleared from the frac­tured or­bital bone near his left eye sus­tained a March 28 game against the New York Knicks.

The ex­pec­ta­tion re­mains that the re­turn will come in Thurs­day’s Game 3 at Amer­i­canAir­lines Arena.

Asked if the Heat have been game­plan­ning for Em­biid, Spoel­stra said, “quite a bit.”

“We had to, lead­ing up to the first game,” he said of Satur­day’s post­sea­son opener that the Heat dropped 130-103, “be­cause we didn’t know for ab­so­lutely cer­tain, un­til I see him not walk out there. So we had to pre­pare for him.

“And when he comes back of­fi­cially, it looks like Game 3, that we’ll have to re­visit that again.”

Just how dra­mat­i­cally the ap­proach re­verts to what the 76ers had em­pha­sized prior to Em­biid’s in­jury re­mains to be seen. But Spoel­stra said the prepa­ra­tions for the se­ries’ first two games have been with a fo­cus on the perime­ter.

“That’s a lit­tle bit more shoot­ing,” he said. “They play through Sim­mons sig­nif­i­cantly more when Em­biid’s not there. And the mul­ti­ple of catch-and­shoots that they play with, it’s more so than when Em­biid’s play­ing.”

Spoel­stra said it won’t nec­es­sar­ily mean hav­ing to fully reload his play­ers’ iPads, just that the old 1.0 soft­ware may have to be re­in­stalled.

“They still are the same team when he’s there, in that they play fast, they move their shoot­ers, they move you around,” he said. “But it’s even more when he’s out, so we have to be pre­pared for that.”

Spoel­stra’s process

The Heat’s process comes lower case.

In­stead of years in the mak­ing, like The Process that had the 76ers lan­guish­ing at the bot­tom of the stand­ings un­til this post­sea­son break­through, the Heat take stock on a yearly ba­sis of how the pieces in place can pro­duce max­i­mum re­sults.

And then you get to the play­offs, where the ad­just­ments come on a game-by-game ba­sis. That now has Spoel­stra weigh­ing how much to change as op­posed to stay­ing to what has got­ten his team to this point.

“The play­offs re­quire be­ing who you are. You bet­ter have habits,” Spoel­stra said. “But they also re­quire do­ing things bet­ter, do­ing things to coun­ter­act what­ever you’re fac­ing. That’s not ex­clu­sive to our se­ries or us or Philly. Ev­ery­body has to do that. That’s this time of the year.”

So while Spoel­stra trusts his low­er­case process, he ap­pre­ci­ates that the play­offs also have you liv­ing in the mo­ment.

“That’s our job,” he said of his staff ’s ad­just­ments. “And that doesn’t mean that we’re al­ways mak­ing the right de­ci­sions, ei­ther. The play­offs are go­ing with what you think is best, what you think you’ve done best over a long pe­riod of time. And, then, what you think you may have to ad­just, de­pend­ing on what’s hap­pen­ing at the cur­rent mo­ment.”

The dif­fer­ence this time of year is that there is not nec­es­sar­ily a long view, and not nec­es­sar­ily time to con­sider feel­ings when it comes to a quick hook or re­duc­tion of play­ing time.

“I have great em­pa­thy for our play­ers go­ing through ev­ery­thing that they do dur­ing the course of a sea­son, all the ups and all the downs,” Spoel­stra said. “And it’s not easy for play­ers not to be out there ex­press­ing them­selves phys­i­cally with a pu­rity of try­ing to help the team. I get that.

“We’ve had a well-bal­anced team all year long and our strength has been our depth and our ver­sa­til­ity and our abil­ity to use it based on how we need to use it. The play­offs, that comes to the fore­front prob­a­bly a lit­tle bit more.”

MICHAEL LAUGH­LIN/STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Erik Spoel­stra will have to ad­just his game plan if Six­ers cen­ter Joel Em­biid re­turns for Game 3 in Mi­ami.

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