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Heat are poised to get physical

James and Wade will heed calling

By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / May 30, 2012
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MIAMI - The quote reverberated from the Celtics locker room after Game 1, making its way into the consciousness of their opponent. Though most of the Heat players shrugged off Rajon Rondo’s quote, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade recited it by heart.

Rondo said the series had to become more physical, that the Celtics had to get more aggressive with the Heat. As he put it, “Nothing dirty, but they have to hit the deck, too.’’

To the Heat, that’s nothing new. That has been the way teams have played James from high school, up to and including this postseason. But as much as the Heat stars said they were just focusing on how to win the series and make it to the NBA Finals, there will be only so much they will take.

“All I’m trying to figure out is how we’re going to win the series, how we’re going to win these games,’’ Wade said. “So whatever they feel that they can do to us, we have one goal and that’s to win ballgames.

“We’ll continue to have that mentality, but obviously you have to protect yourself, and we’re men just like they’re men. So we’re not going to let nobody just come and punk us, but that’s not our mentality to go out there and make people hit the deck.’’

But if that’s what the Celtics are planning, the Heat know they can play that game, too. Or at least they believe they can.

“One thing about us, we feel we can play many styles,’’ Wade said. “So a physical game? It’s the playoffs. That’s fine either way.’’

It’s not like the Heat don’t have experience playing physical. Miami got through its second-round series with the Pacers, which turned ugly at times. In Game 5, three flagrant fouls were called, which resulted in suspensions to Udonis Haslem (one game) and Dexter Pittman (three games).

“That’s all part of the playoffs,’’ coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Nope, we’re not even going to get into it. It’s about the game and we understand that. There will be a lot of different distractions and noise out there. We have to focus on winning the game of basketball tomorrow night.’’

Spoelstra said the Heat expect physical play in the playoffs. It’s what they’ve gotten, after all, even if the Celtics believe they have to increase the physicality.

“I don’t need to prepare for something I already think is going to happen every game,’’ James said. “I expect a physical game every single game I play in. That doesn’t surprise me. It’s not like I have to gear up for it. I’m already geared up for it.’’

And there are ways the Heat can take advantage of it, if that’s the direction the Celtics go.

“Get to the free throw line,’’ James said. “I expect physical play. I expect to be ‘put on the deck,’ whatever the case might be. You just go to the free throw line, go up there and make [the shots], and that’s what it’s about.’’

It’s what’s expected.

Ultimately, Rondo’s comments are not going to make the Heat alter their game plan, at least according to the players and coach. They were able to beat the Celtics in Game 1, and they believe they have enough to beat them in the series and move on to the Finals.

For now, they’re concentrating on correcting mistakes and working out any kinks. So when asked if the Heat were prepared to face an uptick in that area from the Celtics, Spoelstra didn’t sound overly concerned.

“We’ll find out,’’ he said. “We think we’re a physical team. They’re a physical team. It still will be about the game - who plays the game better, who plays to their identity better. Our strengths and the things we emphasize won’t change from Game 1 to Game 2.’’

Amalie Benjamin can be reached at abenjamin@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.

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