NBA

It’s Erik Spoelstra 2, Brad Stevens 0 in NBA Eastern Conference Finals

The Miami Heat hold a surprising 2-0 series lead over the Boston Celtics in the NBA’s Eastern Conference Finals. The Heat have battled back from double-digit deficits in each of the first two games this series. While the Celtics might boast the slight edge in young talent, there’s no doubt the Heat have the edge in coaching as Erik Spoelstra has clearly had his way with Boston’s Brad Stevens.

Erik Spoelstra showing he can win without LeBron James

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The Miami Heat are 10-1 in the playoffs this season. The team has just one player on its roster that was drafted in the top 10. Coach Erik Spoelstra is in his 12th season as the Heat coach and he has guided the team to nine postseason appearances. The Heat won NBA championships in 2012 and 2013, but Spoelstra was under the radar as Miami had LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade leading the way.

James and Wade are no longer there, but the Heat are still cruising. Spoelstra might just be having the best coaching year he’s ever had. “He doesn’t get enough credit,” Wade told The Miami Herald. “But you guys know, Spo don’t care about the credit. He doesn’t care at all. But I mean, you look around the league. I know he’s in Miami and he has been kind of raised through it. But if he was losing and he wasn’t a good coach, he wouldn’t still be there. 

“He will not get enough credit for the Big 3 era because people think if you put talent together, you’re just going to win,” Wade continued. “That is not true. We had an unbelievable general to lead us to those championships and the success we had, and he’s continuing it. He has shown with multiple teams how great of a coach he is. … He’s a great coach, man. He won’t get the respect from the outside. But from all of us who really know, he got it.”

Spoelstra is a player’s coach

Even though he’s in his 12th season as head coach of the Miami Heat, Erik Spoelstra is still just 49 years old. He relates to his players very well. The connection he has with both veterans and rookies shows.

“He wants people to improve. I feel like that’s the biggest thing about Spo,” Miami center Bam Adebayo said to the Miami Herald. “He wants his players to develop. He doesn’t want them to just develop in like one thing and he wants you to expand your game. Having a coach like that that wants his players to be unique and wants them to be what they want to be or what they think they can be, and just morphing them into being that. That’s a big thing for me.

“Once you figure our your role and you start to really be that role and really embrace that that’s your role, your role starts to expand,” Adebayo said. “You can kind of put me in that example. My rookie year, I wasn’t what I am now. I was playing defense and catching lobs. That was it. As the season went on, I started to get more minutes and then it went from just being in a drop zone to switching and catching lobs to making plays in the pocket. Then you started to see the advancement in my game.”

Erik Spoelstra has outcoached Brad Stevens in the series

Twice, the Boston Celtics have held double-digit leads, but the Miami Heat came back strong and won the first two games of the series. In Game 1, the Celtics led by 14 in the fourth quarter. In Game 2, the Celtics led by 17 points in the second quarter. Some adjustments by Spoelstra allowed the Heat to climb back in both games.

One of those adjustments was switching to a zone defense to start the second half of Game 2. The Heat outscored the Celtics by 20 in the third quarter. The Celtics had no answer. “It was a good adjustment for us,” Heat rookie Tyler Herro said to The Miami Herald. “We just wanted to throw a different look at them. They were carving us up when we were playing man to man. Coach made an adjustment at half and we went with it.”

“I think Spo did an amazing job to change the coverage,” Heat guard Goran Dragic said. “Spo likes to do that. He switches on the fly on the sideline and goes man-to-man or zone or blitzes the pick-and-roll.”