LeBron James: Bandwagoners 'bizarre'
MIAMI -- The Miami Heat say they aren't paying any more attention to the newfound praise for the team's success than they did to critics who ridiculed their early season failures.
"We understand that, as we win games, people will try to crown us," Heat forward LeBron James said. "That's bizarre. We just have to go out there and continue to play our game."
But the Heat's pair of convincing wins over the Boston Celtics in the first two games of their Eastern Conference semifinals series has quieted naysayers and has some observers proclaiming Miami title favorites.
"The bandwagon will sway so flagrantly to each side after each game that it's hard to keep track of everything," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Three days of everyone singing your accolades -- if you let it, it will make you soft."
The best-of-seven series moves to Boston for Game 3 at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN.
The Heat emphasized at their Friday practice that they anticipate the Celtics to answer with renewed energy.
"We are expecting a championship response from the Boston Celtics," Spoelstra said. "That's a very proud, veteran, poised, experienced team."
The defending champs are trying to three-peat. The Heat Index.
Although the Heat lead 2-0 in the series, the team has lost both of its games this season in Boston, and the franchise has lost 10 consecutive games at TD Garden.
"All we've done is win two games at home," Spoelstra said. "[Boston] is one of the toughest place to get a win. We've not had much success there. No success actually since we've been coaching. We have great respect for what they can do in that building."
Boston has a rabid fan base, and Heat players acknowledged that TD Garden features one of the toughest environments for a visiting team.
"That crowd understand that [the Celtics] are down 2-0," Wade said. "They're going to come and they're going to give them that sixth man they need."
The Celtics expect Shaquille O'Neal to play Saturday in his 2011 postseason debut. The veteran center has been suffering from leg and foot injuries and has logged only five minutes of playing time since Feb. 1.
The Heat said they don't expect to make many adjustments to account for O'Neal's return. If anything, Miami hopes to exploit the big man's presence.
"Things aren't going to change offensively or defensively," Bosh said. "We've got to get him moving. We don't want it go be just a stagnant, half-court game. That's where he can really affect the game if he checks in. We want to get out in the open court and run. And try out best to keep him off the boards and keep him out of the paint."
Kevin Arnovitz covers the Miami Heat for ESPN.com.