MIAMI — Heat coach Erik Spoelstra remained both confident about his team’s chances and defiant that his group would respond following a 108-95 loss to the Denver Nuggets in Game 4 of the NBA Finals on Friday night. Despite the fact that his team is now down 3-1 and facing a must-win Game 5 on Monday night in Denver, Spoelstra remained steadfast in the belief that his team was “built for this” and would respond the same way they have so many times throughout the postseason in the wake of adverse circumstances.
“I told the guys, feel whatever you want to feel tonight,” Spoelstra said. “It’s fine. You probably shouldn’t sleep tonight any amount of time. I don’t think anybody will. We have an incredibly competitive group. We’ve done everything the hard way, and that’s the way it’s going to have to be done right now, again. All we are going to focus on is getting this thing back to the 305. Get this thing back to Miami. And things can shift very quickly.”
The Heat became just the second No. 8 seed in NBA history to advance to The Finals after defeating the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals, but now they face a similar fate that the New York Knicks, who were the first No. 8 seed to make The Finals, but ultimately lost to the San Antonio Spurs in five games. The reason Spoelstra remains so buoyed in his conviction is because he has watched his tough-minded group continue to find ways to win no matter what adversity they’ve faced.
“It’s going to be a gnarly game in Denver that is built for the competitors that we have in our locker room,” Spoelstra said. “By the time we are getting on that plane, all we’re thinking about is get this thing back to Miami.
“We get an opportunity to play a super competitive game in a great environment. That’s going to be an awesome environment. Our guys are built for that. They love that … we understand what the narrative will be, but that’s the way it is with our team.”
Heat star Jimmy Butler echoed the same confidence while reiterating his own belief that the group will find a way to extend the series. When asked what message he wanted to impart to his team in the next few days prior to Game 5, Butler made it simple.
“No doubt,” Butler said. “We don’t have any of that. We don’t have no quit. We’re going to continually fight starting [Saturday] to get better and then we’re gonna go onto Monday and do what we said we were gonna do this entire time and win. We have to. We have no other choice. Otherwise, we did all of this for no reason so the guys know, we know, we got something to do.”
Part of the reason the Heat remain so optimistic is because they just went through the Celtics series where they narrowly avoided becoming the first team in NBA history to blow an 3-0 series lead, but then bounced back to dominate Game 7 in Boston and advance to the Finals.
“You take it one game at a time,” Heat center Bam Adebayo said. “We’ve seen a team come back from 3-0 first hand. So we just have to believe, and one game at a time.”
In order to do that the Heat must find a way to generate more offense against a Nuggets team that has stifled the group throughout the series. Butler made it clear he would keep passing to his shooters, even though guards Gabe Vincent and Max Strus are a combined 4-for-27 over the last two games of this series. Like his coach, Butler held onto the hope that the Heat would find a way to turn things around quickly.
“I think we really do believe in one another and ourselves as individuals,” Butler said. “We’ve done some hard things all year long in this playoff run as well, and now it’s like the hardest of the hard. But like we always say, you know, the things that you want is on the other side of hard is, I don’t know what.
“So that’s where we’re at. That’s our reality, so we’ve got to go out and win three straight.”