MIAMI – Count former coach Mike Fratello among those who believe the Heat have jumped into the playoff picture.
Fratello, who works Nets games on the YES Network and league games on TNT, was in town Monday and witnessed the Heat’s eighth straight win. Besides being impressed with the way Miami (19-30) has fought through a rough start (they were 11-30 two weeks ago), Fratello believes the Heat are back in the playoff hunt.
Miami is 12th in the East, four games behind No. 8 seed Charlotte.
“They’re in their playoff run right now, they’ve put together this eight game streak to get back in there,” Fratello told me. “When you come out of the All-Star weekend you’re in the back stretch, the season is over quick once you come back from All-Star weekend.”
The Heat have eight games remaining before the All-Star Game starting tonight at home against Atlanta. Six of those games are against teams with losing records.
“Grab a couple of more before the All-Star break and then come back out of the break with the momentum, not lose it over that week that they’re going to be off,” he said. “The nature of the game is some teams forget to come back from All-Star break. They go in and they forget to come back.”
But Fratello does not believe that will happen with the Heat because of the makeup of their players and the attitude instilled by coach Erik Spoelstra.
“If your team is tough minded, which Miami is because of the job Erik has done with them, when you come back you steal a game or two because your guys are ready, your guys have not gotten too far away from basketball during the off week, they still had their workouts, they still got their shooting in,” Fratello said. “You grab one or two games that might have been 50-50 games. You get the advantage because your guys are ready and you keep that momentum going and then if the team in front of you loses and you win, you pick up two games all and of a sudden. … “
Fratello, who worked alongside Heat TV play-by-play announcer Eric Reid for a little more than two seasons in the early 2000s, won 1,215 games as coach of the Hawks, Cavaliers and Grizzlies. He led his teams to the playoffs 11 times.