Heat relishing another trip to East's finals


By Ira Winderman

By Ira Winderman

Sun Sentinel

MIAMI (MCT) — There was no flight Thursday, no need to pack for five nights on the road. Instead, the Miami Heat remained grounded.

In more ways than one.

"We want to keep going," center Chris Bosh said of reaching the Eastern Conference finals for a fourth consecutive season, as many seasons as Bosh, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have been teammates. "It's a small sign of success. But it's only a steppingstone of where we want to get to."

Where the Heat want to get is a fourth consecutive NBA Finals, and then a third consecutive NBA championship.

That doesn't mean there also wasn't time taken to reflect, as the Heat awaited their East finals opponent to emerge from the series between the Indiana Pacers and Washington Wizards.

"For once, we can just sit back, see what happens and start preparing again for another tough series," Bosh said.

Actually the waiting game is happening for the second time this postseason, the first-round sweep of the Charlotte Bobcats allowing for a seven-day break after the opening round, and Wednesday's the five-game ouster of the Brooklyn Nets allowing for more than what could have been a one-day turnaround going into the next round, had there been a Friday Game 6 at Barclays Center.

"This is the reason why we came together four years ago," James said, "to put ourselves in position to compete for a championship, and this is one step closer."

The Heat put tickets for the Eastern Conference finals on sale Thursday.

The Heat went 2-2 against both Indiana and Washington during the regular season. But regular-season records meant little against Brooklyn, with the Heat 0-4 against the Nets during the regular season but 4-1 these past two weeks in silencing Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Joe Johnson and Deron Williams.

"We still have some business to take care of," James said, "but it is great to be able to put ourselves in a position to be able to get back to the NBA Finals. We never shortcut the process and we understand that each and every game is going to be a process for us."

And every series.

Power forward Udonis Haslem, who started every game of the opening-round sweep of the Bobcats, played only 3 minutes, 11 seconds against the Nets. Center Greg Oden, who was in uniform for the Charlotte series, did not dress once against Brooklyn. By contrast, Shane Battier started all five games against Brooklyn as an undersized power forward and played 93 minutes in the series, after playing just two minutes in the opening round.

With his team off Thursday, coach Erik Spoelstra had the opportunity to calibrate in advance of an expected move back toward a bigger, bulkier rotation, with beefier opposition looming.

"We'll get to that point when we get there," he said. "I haven't given any thought right now. But based on our history, whatever move is necessary, I won't hesitate."

Thursday allowed the Heat to savor some history, having now won 10 consecutive playoff rounds since falling to the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 NBA Finals, becoming just the fifth franchise to string together as many series successes, with the NBA record 13 consecutive series won by the Lakers from 2000 to 2003.

For guard Ray Allen, it is his second trip to the East finals with the Heat, having done it three times with the Celtics. He said the Heat's enduring success in reaching this level should not be taken for granted.

"It is an incredible accomplishment," he said. "It's something that you always think that once you go one time that you're always supposed to be in it, that there is no other place to be but there.

"Every year it seems like it gets tougher and you have to work your way into that situation so you can get back. If you talk to anybody on this team, four straight years, you talk about all the trials and tribulations that we've been through to get here. It feels great. But still the job is not done."

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