Heat Nation

Erik Spoelstra to Give Heat Day Off Before Crucial Game vs. Hornets

Hassan Whiteside, Erik Spoelstra, Goran Dragic

The Miami Heat will not practice on Monday after losing their second game in a row.

They lost a close contest to the Denver Nuggets 116-113 on Sunday night and Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra believes that the stress of making the playoffs has taken its toll on the team.

He hopes his decision to give the players a day off will allow them to recalibrate and come back focused for their Tuesday practice ahead of their critical matchup against the Charlotte Hornets.

“This is like our playoffs right now and it’s been like that for a while,” Spoelstra said. “Our guys are laying it all out there, but we just haven’t been able to get the job done the last couple games. Now, we just have to be able to quiet all the noise.”

Hassan Whiteside, who contributed 16 points and grabbed 12 rebounds against the Nuggets, explained that the race to earn the final playoff spot has added an extra mental strain to every game:

“It’s tough, man,” Whiteside said. “Every time you make a push, it pushes back. But we still got a lot more games left, so we can’t give up.

“I think it can help a lot,” Whiteside said of a day away from basketball. “These guys can reflect on things.”

Since starting the season 11-30, the Heat have compiled a 26-10 record; but, during their second-half resurgence, they have taken very few days off.

Their surge up the standings could all be for naught if they fail to make the playoffs. Despite their last two losses, Miami is still hanging onto the eighth seed (they hold the tiebreaker over the Indiana Pacers who also lost on Sunday).

“Spo tells us all the time that getting in these playoffs and trying to get a good spot is the hardest thing we’ll ever do in our professional lives,” said Josh Richardson. “We embrace that. We’ve just got to take it for what it is. We’ve got another game in [two] days.”

The Hornets, who come into town on Wednesday, hold the season tiebreaker over the Heat and are only one game back in the Eastern Conference. If the Heat lose to the Hornets, they would be leapfrogged by the Hornets in the standings for the final playoff spot.

Wednesday’s game against the Hornets will tip off at 7 p.m. and will be aired on Fox Sports Sun.

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