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Heat embark on playoff push

April 16, 2011
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

MIAMI (AP) - Dwyane Wade started this Miami Heat postseason push a year ago.

Not with The Decision.

He made The Promise.

When the Heat were bounced in the first round of the 2010 playoffs, Wade raised an eyebrow for emphasis and said, "This will be my last first-round exit for a while."

You know the rest. The roster was revamped. LeBron James and Chris Bosh arrived. The Heat won 58 games, all seeming meaningless since this season will be solely judged by playoff results, the first of those coming Saturday when the Philadelphia 76ers visit for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

"I'm always thinking about that," Wade said Friday when asked to recall his mindset when delivering those words. "I meant it."

Motivation is not scarce around the Heat, with James still looking for his first championship, a slew of veterans with 10-plus seasons of experience seeking their first rings, and six months of jabs from doubters serving as fuel. Topping it off, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra dusted off the 2006 NBA championship trophy at a team meeting Thursday night.

"Inspiration and motivation," James said. "Two words that describe it for me."

Philadelphia coach Doug Collins understands. His team - 150-1 underdogs at some sports books in this series - is acutely aware that Miami has spent the last 82 games thinking about this moment, the start of a run that the Heat hope ends with them hoisting a trophy of their own.

"When those three guys got together last summer, Saturday is what they were shooting for," Collins said. "They did get through the regular season, but they're pinning their hopes on starting Saturday, that they can make a championship run."

Miami swept the season series 3-0, with the winning margins between 9-12 points.

The teams last played on March 25, a game in Miami where the 76ers led by as many as 16 in the first half and took a 82-77 lead into the fourth. Wade took over from there, outscoring Philadelphia 18-17 over the final 12 minutes and leading the Heat to a 111-99 victory.

Wade averaged 30.7 points on 52 percent shooting against the 76ers this season, with James averaging 22.7 points and Bosh 17.7 points.

"The whole team is good. They don't have that record because of just three guys," Philadelphia forward Thaddeus Young said. "This is really what they're playing for is the playoffs, but we expect to be ready to try and stop them."

Miami got another boost at practice Friday, when power forward Udonis Haslem went through the workout. Haslem hasn't played since November because of a ruptured foot ligament, and the team is still being cautious about his potential postseason availability.



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