By Arnie Leshin
It’s true, Pat Riley has breakfast almost daily with Erik Spoelstra.
It’s the way the 8th-seeded Miami Heat do things. For Spoelstra, it’s his 17th season as head coach. He was proceeded by Riley, who left the New York Knicks as head coach to take the same vacant position in South Florida.
When Riley retired from coaching, he upped his assistant Spoelstra to take over. And with these two working together for the franchise, you must take the No. 8 in English, Ocho in Espanol, for what it is.
Presently, and not really surprising, Miami, led by 6-foot-8 Jimmy Butler and an array of talent pieced together with the desire to contribute, has risen to the National Basketball Association Eastern Conference finals.
Before arriving at 2nd-seeded Boston Wednesday, the nonsensical word was that Miami would not get past the suddenly red-hot Celtics.
Really, so what we do with the opening night in Bean Town’s 123-116 Heat victory, especially after Boston had come from a impressive elimination of the 3rd-seeded Philadelphia 76ers in Game 7, to take an early lead over Miami and go up by two after one quarter, and 66-57 at halftime.
No matter, Spoelstra, and always include Riley, found a way. They let the Celts play their game of scoring inside and leaving the outside for the visitors.
Who knows, perhaps Spoelstra and Riley met during the intermission. Who cares, except maybe for the stunned sell-out crowd on hand, for the Heat turned in a 46-25 scoring advantage that put it up 103-91 after three.
Yes, it simply brought forth the way it eliminated the No. 1-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in five games, and the No. 5 Knicks in six.
These two performances were led by Butler, and he had the help of 6-9 forward Bam Adebayo, who tossed in 20 points, scrubbed the boards for eight rebounds, and included five assists as well as four blocks.
And Butler just continued to show the way to the rest of the team and its supporters. He provided the leadership, hit from the baseline, the outside, penetrated, handed out assists, and did his share of rebounding.
“Butler’s just a outstanding player, maybe even underrated,” said Spoelstra. “We are a threat out there because of him, the team gains confidence because of him.”
In Game one, Butler scored the game-high 35 points, took down five boards, and dished out a game-high seven assists.
Boston’s soaring-hot forward Jayson Tatum tallied 30 and grabbed a game-high nine rebounds to go with five assists.
Rebounding was close, a 35-34 edge for Miami, but the Heat had more assists, 24-20, and were more accurate from beyond the arc, 51.6 percent to 34.5. It also had a dozen steals, twice as many as the home side.
Free throws didn’t effect the contest, what did was the way Miami took advantage of Boston going inside more on offense to set up its own more comfortable offense.
“We did what we had to,” Butler said, “we fell behind, then settled in and came together. My teammates did what was expected, and we are well coached.”
Game two Friday night. Expect the Celtics to try and give their die-hard green and one fans more to cheer for. But also remember the Heat didn’t allow much of a chance for its first two playoff opponents do so.
Question, wonder what Spoelstra and Riley order for breakfast?