Miami Heat: LeBron, D-Wade compliment 'amazing' Jazz fans, look forward to physical game
Rich Pedroncelli, ASSOCIATED PRESS
SALT LAKE CITY — With the chill in the Utah air and the NFL playoffs in full swing, Miami coach Erik Spoelstra used a football comparison to explain what he anticipates tonight when the Miami Heat take on the Utah Jazz.
"A full-pad, gridiron type game," the coach said at this morning's shootaround.
Along with a physical effort, the Heat also expect Utah to play hard and for the rabid home crowd to make EnergySolutions Arena a pumped-up environment as usual.
"It's a great environment. It's a great atmosphere," Heat star LeBron James said. "These fans are amazing, especially, of course for their team. They bring a lot of energy to the game. I thrive off that."
James has had some success in Utah, and he reminisced on his 51-point game with Cleveland from 2006. But the Jazz have also gotten his teams, including the ever-memorable Sundiata Gaines game and last year's last-second victory for Utah after Devin Harris' three-point play and James' decision to pass the game-winning attempt off to Udonis Haslem.
"The fans give them an extra boost of confidence. They get them excited. They're always into the game," James continued on Jazz faithful. "They know the game of basketball, so much history as far as their organization. So they're great."
Miami star guard Dwyane Wade, whose 24-11 team has gone 5-5 and has gone 1-2 on a six-game road trip, echoed those sentiments. This year, the 20-19 Jazz, winners of five of seven, are 11-4 at home.
"They're very competitive here and they bring out the best in other teams. We enjoy every time we come here," Wade said. "It's a tough place to play. It's a tough place to breathe, first of all. Once you get over that, then you've gotta play the game.
"It's always tough, but it's always enjoyable," he added. "This is one place that if you walk out of here with a win, you feel very, very good about yourself."
Then there's that physical style of play the Jazz have become known for over the years by opponents — most recently Detroit coach Lawrence Frank, who said Utah has a culture of being an instigator.
"They really junk it up here at home. They're a very physical team, obviously, with (Paul) Millsap and (Al) Jefferson, the big guys," Wade said, more as a compliment than a putdown. "They've got a lot of great guards as well, even though they're missing (Mo) Williams."
Forward Chris Bosh also called the Jazz "very physical," adding that the Heat are expecting the home team to try to grind out a win.
"They want to slow the game down, execute in half court, punch it down into the post. That just makes for one of those kind of games," Bosh said. In the same quote, he continued about Jazz fans, adding, "We always know that they're a good home team. It's always a great place to play, a lot of intense games. We're looking forward to tonight."
More short shots from Miami's shootaround:
• LeBron James, 28, on being just 50 points away from becoming the youngest NBA player to reach 20,000 points:
"It means I've been able to stay healthy for one. I've been able to be around teammates that allow me to play at a high level. It is more than a number."
• Did LeBron take the advice he sought Sunday when asked for suggestions on where to eat breakfast in Salt Lake City?
"I get so much (tweets). Some of them are good. Some of them are awful. I'll take some of the advice. I've still got to do a little bit more research, though. I just can't walk in anywhere."
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