When it came to those who had doubts about the Miami Heat’s chances during their just-completed four-game trip, all to be heard after the sweep were crickets.
Makes sense, considering how Jimmy Butler was eating it all up during the team’s trip to Mexico City.
In the wake of Saturday’s victory over the San Antonio Spurs, and in the wake of his 26-point performance in that win at Arena CDMX , Butler spoke of his breakfast (or maybe lunch or maybe dinner) of champions.
“I had crickets,” Butler said. “It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t bad. I’m not going to say I’m going to like line up and just eat a thousand crickets. but I definitely had that.”
He then went out and bugged the Spurs with his efficiency.
“We needed to win, we had to win, and we did just that,” he said, with the Heat idle until Tuesday’s visit by the Chicago Bulls at the start of a four-game homestand that runs through Christmas. “So the next time I come back, I’m eating even more crickets.”
Insects aside, the Heat proved to be pests over the entire week, when factoring in their tight wins in Indiana, Oklahoma City and Houston to start the trip.
“We’re trying to get our footing on this season,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We’re finally above .500 and we don’t want to turn back the rest of the way, and hopefully we can just keep on building on this.
“It’s never easy no matter where you play. This road trip was unique. We were all over the place. – the Midwest, Texas and then [Mexico City]. So I know the guys are fatigued, there have been different time zones. Not as an excuse. We love what we do, we love this opportunity. But we did have to show some collective grit on this road trip and gut out some wins and deal with a lot of adversity and deal with some injuries and things of that nature. But it’s good to see us show some fortitude collectively.”
With the international media in attendance, it hardly was a typical postgame interview session for Spoelstra.
That meant an immediate follow up question about exactly how many wins he believes his team will have by the mid-February All-Star break.
Spoelstra tried to offer his best.
“Woah,” he said with a smile, “that’s definitely not how we’re thinking. Like a number of wins? We just want to make sure that we’re moving forward. This has to be forward progress from here on out. This has been a grind to get to this point. That’s why you can never take anything for granted in this league.
“We’re coming off a successful season and it takes us three months to be able to get over .500. That can be humbling, but it shows you how good this league is. It shows you how tough it is to win on any given night and even more so on the road. So for four games, we’ve shown some grit. We’re going to pack up and get to Miami, rest up, hopefully get some healthy bodies and hopefully continue to build on this.”
Saturday’s victory came with point guard Kyle Lowry sidelined by knee pain and with power forward Caleb Martin out with an ankle sprain.
In fact, only during the trip-opening win over the Pacers were the Heat able to field their preferred starting five of Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, Butler, Lowry and Martin.
“Nothing is guaranteed in this league,” Spoelstra said. “Like I said before, it’s tough. There’s a lot of parity in the league. We know what our road map is for success. It’s about doing it consistently.
“Night in, night out, we have to be able to defend, we have to do tough things, we have to do things that most teams don’t want to do. Then. offensively, hopefully we’re starting to develop a little bit of a rhythm.”
It has been a while since being one game over .500 felt this good for the 16-15 Heat.
“It’s just about building momentum, connection on both sides and just trust and starting to believe,” guard Duncan Robinson said. “And that can compound. You start to win some games, gain some momentum, get some confidence. It turns quickly.”