Heat to stay aggressive on offense
MIAMI -- Coach Erik Spoelstra said Thursday that complaints from opposing teams about the Miami Heat's favorable free throw disparity have been frustrating, but that they won't stop LeBron James and Dwyane Wade from attacking the basket and forcing referees to make calls.
"Everybody knows how we want to play," Spoelstra said before the team traveled to Boston for Game 3 on Friday. "And if we can get some of those in the open court, get to the rim, get to the free throw line, it's not like this is something new right now. We're the league leader in free throw attempts and during the season for a reason."
James and Wade are the only two players in the league this postseason to have shot at least 100 free throws, although Celtics forward Paul Pierce is third with 98 attempts.
The Heat are up 2-0 in the Eastern Conference finals series after rallying from an early 15-point deficit -- the largest Miami has overcome in playoff history -- for a 115-111 overtime victory Wednesday at AmericanAirlines Arena.
After the game, Celtics coach Doc Rivers and team president Danny Ainge avoided outright public criticism of the referees. But both took exception to the way the game was officiated, particularly in the fourth quarter, when Pierce fouled out and later when an apparent foul wasn't called when Wade made contact with Rajon Rondo's head as Rondo drove to the basket.
Through two games, the Heat have attempted 20 more free throws than the Celtics and have won the two games by a combined 18 points. Rivers on Wednesday said his team has been "distracted" by some calls and non-calls.
"I'm not going to touch that," Rivers said Thursday during a media conference call from Boston. "I think Paul Pierce attacks just as much as LeBron James attacks. I'll leave it that. Today, I think we've already moved past it and by tomorrow, I think we'll be ready to play. They are going to shoot a lot of free throws ... you know LeBron and Wade will be. There's nothing wrong with that. That's who they are. But we have to [shoot them] as well."
Rivers was asked after Wednesday's game whether he could put the officiating into words, ones that wouldn't get him fined, and he was brutally honest.
"I cannot," Rivers said. "Listen, it is what it is. LeBron James took 24 free throws tonight and our team took 29. Paul Pierce fouled out of a game where he was attacking the basket. It's just tough. But listen, we just got to keep playing. I tell my guys, it doesn't matter, we can't get distracted. We will not get distracted in this series."
Spoelstra dismissed any talk of an unfair disparity and said James and Wade earn trips to the line with aggressive play.
"We don't buy into any of that," Spoelstra said. "That's normal playoff talk. That's who we've been all year long. What we've been trying to hammer and hold each other accountable to is that's our identity. When we get away from that identity, it hasn't been a successful formula. We're going to attack."
James, who shot 24 free throws against Boston in Game 2, has a league-high 141 attempts in the playoffs. Wade was 7-of-11 from the line Wednesday and has 100 total attempts.
This isn't the first time in the playoffs that Miami's ability to get to the free throw line or draw fouls has gotten underneath its opponents' skin. New York Knicks coach Mike Woodson pointed to the discrepancy in the first-round series, when the Heat averaged 31.3 free throw attempts to 17 by the Knicks in the three games played in Miami. The averaged attempts were virtually even at 29 apiece in the two games the teams played in New York.
The Heat won that series in five games before advancing to face the Indiana Pacers in the second round. But even before that series started, coach Frank Vogel was fined $15,000 for what the league deemed attempts to influence the officiating when Vogel told reporters before Game 1 that the Heat were the biggest flopping team in the NBA.
The Heat averaged eight more trips to the line than Indiana in the three games played in Miami, but shot about two fewer than the Pacers during the three games in Indiana. Overall, Miami has attempted 383 free throws compared to 308 by its opponents through 13 playoff games this season.
Spoelstra hopes Wade and James don't abandon their attacking style when the series shifts to Boston out of any concern about the games being officiated any differently.
"You'll have different challenges on the road than at home, and dealing with a lot of different things," Spoelstra said. "I think those are all distractions and when we get caught up in that, everybody does -- the staff, the players -- we all become frustrated at some point.
"I think we've been able to compartmentalize and focus on what really matters. And that's the possession and the game and trying to win, rather than get caught up in all the things we can't control."
Information from ESPNBoston.com's Chris Forsberg was used in this report.
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