Finally, they knew their fate -- that the long-awaited rematch
for Eastern Conference supremacy was set. And it'll begin Tuesday
night in Auburn Hills, Mich., where the Heat and Pistons play Game
1 of their second straight conference final series.
"We're happy to be here and we have no excuses, whatsoever,"
Heat coach Pat Riley said Sunday night, after his team -- which
practiced in the morning -- returned for a shootaround after Detroit
ousted Cleveland with a 79-61 win in Game 7 of their second-round
"We're rested. We're healthy. I think we're happy," Riley
said. "And I hope we're humble, or more humble. We have to go up
there and we have our work cut out for us with Detroit in Detroit.
They're a great team."
Detroit won three of the four meetings with Miami this season,
after beating the Heat in seven games for the 2005 East crown. The
Pistons didn't have home-court advantage in last year's matchup;
they do this year, and, including playoffs, are 43-5 at home this
The Pistons should be sharp; the series opener with Miami will
be their sixth game in 11 days. Meanwhile, the Heat will be coming
off six days of rest after closing out the New Jersey Nets in only
five games to reach the East's title matchup -- the one that seemed
Detroit went 64-18 this season, the best record in the NBA.
Miami went 52-30 to secure the East's No. 2 seed.
"I mean, that's what everybody expected," Heat forward Udonis
Haslem said. "I guess that's what everybody wanted to see. It's
time for the games everybody wants to talk about to happen."
Too much Miami rest may have helped play a role in the Heat's
downfall last season. They had eight days off before the Detroit
series a year ago, lost the opener, and wound up eventually
succumbing in seven games. If there is any rust on the Heat's game,
the Pistons will certainly aim to exploit it on Tuesday night.
"We don't get the rest, but it's also a situation with Miami
where they haven't played in a while, so you never know how that
can turn out," Pistons forward Tayshaun Prince said. "It feels
good to have three or four days off, but when you have a little bit
longer, I think you get out of rhythm a little bit."
The Heat's company line of late has had nothing to do with any
revenge factor from losing to Detroit last season -- which really
isn't surprising, considering several members of this Miami team
weren't around for that defeat.
Over the last week, Miami's players have said repeatedly that
they'll be ready for whichever opponent emerged from the
Cleveland-Detroit series. And at long last, they know who the foe
"You have to get through the team that's in your way, no matter
who it is," Heat guard Dwyane Wade said. "Right now it's Detroit.
We've got a tough job ahead of us. We understand that, but we're
looking forward to it."