Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra believes his team’s mental toughness in rallying back to win game one in overtime is a positive sign for the rest of their playoff run.
The Heat committed a string of errors in the closing moments of the fourth quarter and blew a six-point lead inside the last ten seconds of regulation.
Led by Dwyane Wade, Spoelstra's men summoned up the strength to put the disappointment aside and dominate the overtime period on the way to a 102-96 win.
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FINDING A WAY
“With Kyle Lowry’s three, as soon as it left his hand I think everybody in the building kind of had an idea that it would go in," Spoelstra said. "But from that point on, I was extremely proud of the group.
"To get knocked down on the canvas like that, the air punctured out of your body, and show the mental resolve to come back and take control of overtime – that’s great mental toughness that I think we showed out there.
“The overtime was the most mental toughness we’ve shown [as a group]. To be able to come back from that you have to collect yourself. I would think some of what we went through last series has helped us with that. All this is new for this team so we’re growing through all of it, competing and dealing with all of it.
“Look, we weren’t necessarily thrilled with the way it went that last minute and a half of regulation but we have to go through all of this together. It was good to see us overcome it.
"[Dwyane] willed a bunch of plays down the stretch on both ends - the steal, the first one to the floor on the loose ball on the last play and we were running most of our offense through him the last two and a half minutes of overtime.
"That's the mental toughness that he always shows in these moments [to say] ok, forget what happened, we are in a great spot so let's get the job done. And that's what great leaders do for your basketball team."
Luol Deng was at the heart of the late action, committing two turnovers on inbounds plays before rallying in overtime. He pointed to Miami's close-knit locker room as another reason for the mental resolve in the face of the fourth quarter chaos.
“We’re a tough group of guys and we’ve seen a lot of different situations so we just stuck with it, even after almost giving the game away,” Deng explained. “A lot of teams could have folded but we regrouped.
“We’re an experienced team and we’re a close group. We always have each other’s backs and a lot of times the closer you are as a team, the tougher you are and you can pull out games like that.
“We played well – well enough to win the game in regulation. We made some silly mistakes at the end but we have to learn from it and know that we are not satisfied with that win. We will take the win, we are happy about it, but there are a lot of things we have to correct."