The Miami Heat have become masters of tuning out the naysayers’ noise in their bid to become the first eighth-seeded team to win the NBA title.
Forward Jimmy Butler said it’s something the Heat have perfected through an arduous, injury-plagued season in which mental toughness carried the club through lineup changes, losing streaks, the play-in tournament and, finally, past Eastern Conference top seeds Milwaukee and second-seeded Boston.
On Sunday, they handed Western Conference top seeds Denver their first home defeat of this post-season, withstanding a 41-point performance from Nuggets star Nikola Jokic to head home to Miami to host games three and four with the championship series tied at 1-1.
“We’re not worried about what anybody thinks,” Butler said of the key to the Heat’s resilience.
“We’re so focused in on what we do well and who we are as a group that at the end of the day, that’s what we fall back on.
“Make-or-miss shots, we’re going to be who we are because we’re not worried about anybody else. That’s how it’s been all year long, and that’s not going to change.
“So that’s what I think it is. I think it’s the ‘I don’t give a damn’ factor.”
Center Bam Adebayo added: “Biggest thing for us, we heard the noise throughout the whole playoffs. Biggest thing for us, we had the will and we had the belief, and we keep finding ways to win.”
Miami’s poor shooting doomed them to defeat in game one on Thursday, and they appeared to be looking at a 2-0 deficit when Denver shook off a slow start to seize a 15-point second-quarter lead in game two.
The Nuggets were up by eight going into the fourth quarter, but Miami again found the way.
“I don’t think there’s a secret sauce to it,” Butler said. “I think we just move the ball, pass the ball to the open guy and play some simple basketball.
“And we made shots. That’s what this league is, that’s what this game is, make-or-miss game, make-or-miss league.
“We made some shots — they didn’t.”