Having passed their final pre-playoff test with Sunday's rugged 105-93 victory over the Chicago Bulls, the Miami Heat now essentially get a full week of rest before the defending champions begin their run at a repeat. Monday's visit to play Cleveland represents little more than a chance for LeBron James to check on his home in Akron before he likely takes the night off against the Cavaliers. With the Heat already locked into their first-round playoff series against the eighth-seeded Milwaukee Bucks, coach Erik Spoelstra announced Sunday that Miami's first full playoff practice will take place Wednesday morning. That would be just hours before the Heat play the regular-season finale Wednesday night against the Orlando Magic. It's one of many clear signs that indicate just how eager the Heat are to start the only part of their schedule that matters. In a season that could have been mired by distractions, a championship hangover and falling well short of expectations, the Heat instead delivered easily what has been the best regular-season run in franchise history. Now, with James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh not likely to make their next appearance together on the court until Game 1 of the playoffs this coming weekend, the Heat regroup to show just how much better this team is than the one that cruised past Oklahoma City last year in the Finals. The Heat have transitioned from losing to Dallas in the 2011 Finals to winning it all last season to rewriting the franchise record book this season. Just how different is this Heat team than the ones from the past two seasons? Spoelstra believes this team has a different mindset. “I think we're a better team now going into the playoffs than we were last year,” Spoelstra said Sunday. “It started with having a growth mindset. We started really hammering home that concept in the preseason -- don't stay the same. Individually, you have to get better. Collectively, every month we have to try and get better.” That individual growth has led to James, Bosh, Wade all having the most efficient offensive seasons of their careers. Members of the supporting cast, including Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier and Mike Miller, can also point to career-high production in at least one statistical category.
With two games left, playoff focus narrows
ESPN | Apr 15