Competing at a high level in any sport is often just as much about the mental game as it is the physical. This year's Eastern Conference Finals series between the Miami Heat and the Indiana Pacers has had its share of mental games, mostly from Lance Stephenson, who has been talking trash to LeBron James (and blowing on him), as well as saying he wanted to make Dwyane Wade's knee injury flare up.
Stephenson's mind games don't seem to really bother Wade, as he claims that playing the Boston Celtics in recent years has helped prepare the Heat for mentally-charged games.
(Lance Stephenson) would rather toss Skittles at the giant's face to wake him up, then shout at the giant until he agrees to a steel-cage match. It might not be the perfect method, but it is his method, the method that has brought him all the way from overhyped bust to big-time contributor on an Eastern Conference Finals participant. A similar method was once employed by the KG-era Boston Celtics, who received credit from Miami after Monday night's Game 4.
"We played Boston a lot, and they made it more than just about basketball, and they beat us in the mental game as well as the physical game," Dwyane Wade told reporters. "We learned that the only way we're going to beat them is if we beat them playing the game of basketball. They're great at that mental game.
"So from that point, we try to leave that alone. We try to beat you at basketball. We don't go into the back‑and‑forth talking because that's not what we're here for, and that's not going to win us a game. So we try to beat you at basketball."
Wade seems to mention the Celtics (and lessons he learned from playing them) quite a bit in interviews. He also recalled how playing Boston made Miami mentally tough during an interview a couple weeks ago:
"(The Celtics) were the team that we had to get by. We had to learn how to win, learn how to be. Playing them, when they were in Boston, made us mentally tough, because we couldn't beat them if we weren't mentally strong. That's why we were able to win games like today."
It seems as though whatever mental games that the likes of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, and the other Celtics that were part of the intense Heat rivalry in recent years did must have worked, since the Celtics seem to be always coming out of Wade's mouth, so they must still be in his head. Many years of competing against Boston seems to have had quite a profound effect on Miami.
Photo: Chris Trotman/Getty Images Danielle Hobeika 5/29/2014 12:51:00 PM Tweet Edit