Why did Heat coach Erik Spoelstra say: ‘I’m not such a tyrant’

Minnesota's Karl-Anthony Towns shoots over Miami's Hassan Whiteside during the Heat's 115-113 victory Monday in Minnesota. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns shoots over Miami’s Hassan Whiteside during the Heat’s 115-113 victory Monday in Minnesota. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

MINNEAPOLIS – Nobody ever said “offense wins championships.”

And Erik Spoelstra will make sure his team doesn’t forget what triggered this stunning turnaround that has seen the Miami Heat win as many games in the last three weeks as they did in the previous four months.

Spoelstra is not opposed to his players having a little fun on he court, especially if it’s raining three-pointers like it was during Miami’s 11th straight win on Monday, a 115-113 victory at Minnesota.

“I’m not such a tyrant that I don’t want that,” Spoelstra said about his players slipping into an occasional offensive mindset.

OK, Spo is no ‘tyrant.’ But, like every successful coach, ‘dictator’ may be more appropriate.

This franchise’s constitution was not formed around the word “offense,” at least not the document signed when Pat Riley arrived 22 years ago.

Rather, the Heat like to think their foundation is built on defense; the dirty, gritty, grimy side of basketball that allows talented teams to win championships and ordinary teams to exceed expectations.

And while nobody will dispute Miami’s offense has something to do with this meteoric improvement – the Heat have scored in triple digits in its last nine games and are averaging nearly 119 points a game in its last three – Spoelstra is looking long term.

 Erik Spoelstra

Erik Spoelstra

“It’s important for us to go through that,” Spoelstra said about winning when the defense is not up to standards. “We’ve gone through almost everything else – How to play with a ridiculously bad record, how to play with adversity, how to play through injuries, how to play without making excuses. Now we have to play to our identity. … When you’re dealing with a little bit of success not let human nature sink in.”

Relying on offense (a.k.a. – any team coached by Mike D’Antoni) is so disdained by Spoelstra (and the organization) he equates it to a lousy record or going though adversity or an inordinate amount of injuries.

The Heat finished in the top five in points allowed every season from 2009-10 to 2015-16. Currently, they are seventh, the same as their defensive efficiency rating.

During the same span Miami was in the top nine in points scored once and currently are 25th, one spot higher than its offensive efficiency rating. Still, those numbers are better than 29th, which is where they were for most of the first half of the season.

“The guys are gaining a ton of confidence offensively,” Spoelstra said before his line of the night. “Look, I’m not such a tyrant that I don’t want that. I want that. I want these guys feeling good about themselves offensively but our identity when you put that Miami Heat uniform on is to defend, to do the little things, to make tough physical plays, to take pride in that and not to give a 60 percent half to a team no matter how talented they are.

“And we’ll have to get back to that because your defense has to travel. We’re very fortunate (to have won in Minnesota) but if we continue just to bring this kind of game it won’t be good enough to win.”

And Spoelstra is right. The Heat cannot sustain this type of offensive proficiency. This resurgence, no matter how far it goes, will be powered by the defense. Miami cannot count on shooting 54 percent from three every night, and certainly not 11-of-14 while building a 14-point first half lead.

And it definitely cannot count on winning then the opponent shoots 53.8 percent for the game, as Minnesota did.

The encouraging sign for Spoelstra: When Miami needed stops late it got them. The Timberwolves shot 42.9 percent in the final 12 minutes, two of their misses in the final 11 seconds that could have won the game or sent it into overtime.

“We’ve had that happen in the fourth quarter (before) so we were waiting for that,” Spoelstra said.

Now Spoelstra is waiting for the defense to re-appear for the full 48 minutes.

[Here’s proof that the Miami Heat never lost hope — even with 11-30 record]

[Erik Spoelstra takes blame for miscues late in Heat win over Timberwolves]

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