Joys and Hardships of Playoffs

By Natalia López-Thismón

Wade playing against the Chicago Bulls

Veteran players of the Miami HEAT are well-acquainted with the joys and hardships of the NBA Playoffs. Emotions run high and pressure to win games makes the playoffs intense for players and fans alike. Everything counts out on the court during playoffs: every jumper, every steal. Every. Single. Possession. The Larry O’ Brien Trophy is at stake, and as such, razor sharp focus is required from every player on the team.

“The intensity, the focus that you need is different,” said forward Shane Battier about the differences between the playoffs and regular season. “Your study and your focus have to be sharper.” This is Battier’s ninth playoff run.

For guard Ray Allen, who is playing his 10th postseason run and who is known for his extraordinary work ethic and dedication, the playoffs mentality starts during the regular season.

“From playoffs to regular season, it’s all the same,” he said, “but preparation is the hardest thing about what we do. Everything leads up to that first playoff game. It’s paying attention to the teams you’re playing, it’s eating right, it’s getting your body strong—all those things go into play. You have to be totally committed to it.”

Allen’s hard work and preparation was evident during Round One of the postseason when he broke the all-time record for three-pointers made in the postseason (322) during Game Three against the Bucks, passing Reggie Miller’s record of 320. The commitment from the rest of the team was also apparent during the First Round with the HEAT shooting 49.7 percent from the field, averaging 23.5 assists, and outrebounding their opponents 43.5 to 34.8.

The HEAT succeeded in sweeping the series 4-0 (a franchise first) against the Bucks, winning each game by at least 11 points.

According to forward Udonis Haslem the secret to winning during the playoffs is, “play every game like it’s your last. Even though it’s best-of-seven, you leave it all on the floor every game, you ice, you hydrate and you make your adjustments for the next.” Haslem, like Battier is also on his ninth playoff run.

But even when players give all their effort to a game, a loss is never beyond the purview. Winning and losing are the biggest joy and the toughest hardship of playoffs. When asked about his hardest playoff loss Allen said, “When you lose, you feel like your heart is cut out and there’s nothing that can make it feel better.”

Guard Dwyane Wade, now in his ninth playoff run, knows the feeling all too well, as the team suffered a rough loss in the 2011 Finals before coming back to win it all the next season. He understands that it’s the hardships of the playoffs that make the joy of winning that much sweeter.

In an interview after the 2012 Championship game, Wade said, “After nine years in the league, going through a 15-win season, going through a lot of stuff in my personal life, this right here, this feels amazing. I know how hard it was to get to the mountaintop. I’m going to enjoy this because nothing is guaranteed; I’ve seen that, so I’m going to enjoy it. This is a great feeling.”

To see more from tonight's TIPOFF magazine, download the PDF here!