NUGGETS

Fiery Spoelstra dismisses altitude, has plan for revenge in Miami

May 31, 2023, 3:52 PM

DENVER—Remember the 2014 NBA Finals when LeBron James was forced out of Game 1 with cramps caused by extremely warm arena temperatures in San Antonio after the air conditioning malfunctioned?

Miami Heat coach at the time and still in that role today, Erik Spoelstra remembers that moment and has jokes and/or maybe a strategy.

Spoelstra’s Heat lost that Finals, but he’s now been here six times as a head coach and has won twice. The 15th-year leader of Miami has seen just about everything in the NBA, what he hasn’t seen is the Denver Nuggets in a playoff series. Meaning Spo hasn’t seen what altitude can do to the body.

“We’re not getting into any of that stuff. Our guys are in great shape. They’re ready to compete. If Denver wants to tip this thing off at the top of Everest, we’ll do that,” Spoelstra remarked ahead of Thursday’s Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

The Nuggets are heavy favorites against the Heat but have said this will be the toughest challenge yet. Between the altitude and now the heat of Ball Arena with the ice gone for the summer, both the Suns and Lakers seemed to tire out toward the end of games.

In fact, the Nuggets have won six of the eighth fourth quarters played at Ball Arena in this postseason. But the Heat were the only team in the NBA to have a better net rating than the Nuggets in both the regular and postseason when it came to crunch time.

So Spo isn’t worried about the altitude but maybe the Nuggets should worry about what happened to James nearly a decade ago.

“They’ve also got to come back to Miami. If you want to make it about that, we’ll turn off the air conditioning and they’ve got to play in 90-degree humidity, sap the s— out of their legs,” Spoelstra said. “This thing is going to be decided between those four lines, and we’ll decide it then.”

The Nuggets have home court advantage so Miami will have to overcome the altitude. Yet Denver may be tasked to overcome the heat and the Heat when they goto South Beach.

And the Heat’s star, who is very familiar with Denver isn’t concerned about the thin air either.

“No, I just be drinking some water, listen to some music,” Jimmy Butler said. “I think that’s the formula, you’ve just got to listen to music, drink water, drink wine, play Spades and dominos.”

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