January 8 not only featured a tough loss for the Miami Heat, but it marked the final day of the NFL regular season. After Miami’s pro football team, the Dolphins, fared better than the Heat, locking down an AFC playoff spot on the season’s final day, Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra addressed the team’s success.
“It’s been fun, I’ve enjoyed the entire ride,” Spoelstra told reporters after his team’s 102-101 loss to the Brooklyn Nets. “I was able to go to a training camp practice, hang out with them and see their process…. It’s been great for the city. I enjoy seeing teams come together particularly when there is adversity, and figuring some things out.”
The Dolphins, who toughed out an 11-6 victory over the New York Jets to get the seventh seed in the AFC, will look to upset the second-seeded Buffalo Bills when they head to Orchard Park, New York, on January 15. The Dolphins have not won a playoff game since 2000 and have appeared in the playoffs only twice since 2002, with their last appearance in 2016 as a wild card.
Erik Spoelstra Fires Criticism at Officials After Heat Loss
The Dolphins weren’t the only group that Spoelstra had words for. He was far from thrilled with the officials after they did not blow the whistle on the Nets’ Royce O’Neale as Jimmy Butler drove to the basket for the winning layup attempt with time running out. The ball did not go in and Butler lay on the floor.
“I thought Jimmy just made the absolute right play,” Spoelstra said. “I think in this game alone he could’ve six to eight more free throw attempts. … I don’t think [O’Neale] was vertical. I don’t think he was set. That earned the right to go to the free throw line and see if he could’ve won the game.”
However, the star Heat forward didn’t feel as strongly about the play as his coach. He elected to put the blame on himself rather than pin it on the referees.
“Nah, I should’ve made it,” Butler said after the game in a locker room interview. “I think we definitely got the look that we wanted, I just gotta make that.”
Injuries Leave Jimmy Butler By Himself for the Heat
The Heat will have a chance to bounce back when they host the Oklahoma City Thunder on January 10. It’ll be the second of four straight home games for Miami, with the Milwaukee Bucks coming to town for the two remaining games on January 13 and 15.
Oklahoma City likely won’t be an easy win for the Heat. Not only because they’ve won three of their last four games, but also because Miami will be without four of their five starters for the matchup. Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, Kyle Lowry, and Caleb Martin are all sidelined with various injuries, leaving Butler as the lone starter for the home squad. On top of the 33-year-old, Max Strus, Haywood Highsmith, Victor Oladipo, Orlando Robinson, and Jamal Cain were the only Heat players not to be listed on the injury report.