MEXICO CITY – Not lost on the Miami Heat as they enjoy sightseeing, shopping and touring the Polanco neighborhood of Mexico City:
They have a game here that, considering their start to the season, has become pretty important.
The Heat (11-13) face the Brooklyn Nets (10-14) Saturday at Arena Ciudad de Mexico. Brooklyn defeated Oklahoma City, 100-95, Thursday in the first of the two games played here. The Heat’s first and only practice in the city was today at the American School.
“It’s definitely time to lock in,” captain Udonis Haslem said. “You have a little bit of down time. We want to take in the culture and enjoy the city but first and foremost we’re here to do a job.”
The Heat used their practice time to prepare for the Nets and work up a sweat 7,349 feet above sea level.
“Today we’re going to get after it,” Spoelstra said before Friday’s practice. “We’re going to get acclimated to the altitude. I know it’s probably on our guys’ minds. We’re going to use the full 94 feet, get up and down and then see if we can continue to more forward and build some productive habits and get ready for tomorrow’s game.”
The Heat know the importance of starting to compile wins, especially with the schedule becoming more forgiving after playing the Warriors and Spurs this week.
The Nets have won 41 games the last two years combined but with 10 wins they have half of their total from 2016-17. A year ago they won their 10th game March 1.
“Probably quietly around the league they’ve been under the radar,” Spoelstra said. “They’ve been playing some productive basketball. They’ve had a lot of their guys out. The guys they’ve had available they’re creating an identity, they play fast, they shoot a lot of 3s, they get you on your heels quite a bit. They move the ball very well.
“Our guys understand this will be a good healthy challenge for us.”
The Nets made a big trade Thursday, acquiring center Jahlil Okafor, guard Nik Stauskas and a 2019 second round draft pick from the Philadelphia for forward/center Trevor Booker.
Okafor and Stauskas are not expected to join the team for Saturday’s game.
“We don’t really forget it’s a business trip,” Heat guard Wayne Ellington said. “We got to take care of business first and foremost, all the other stuff comes second. We’re ready to have a good practice and get ready for the game tomorrow.”