Plan A has turned into Plan B in this best-of-seven opening-round NBA playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers. But that doesn't mean that Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra isn't poised to pivot the moment he sees Joel Embiid back on the court.
With Embiid missing his 10th consecutive game Monday night at Wells Fargo Center, the focus of Spoelstra and the Heat has turned to the ball-movement approach of a 76ers offense that now has rookie point guard Ben Simmons as the focus.
But Spoelstra said at Monday's shootaround at Temple University that there is an in-case-of-emergency envelope waiting to be opened the moment that Embiid is cleared from the fractured orbital bone near his left eye sustained a March 28 game against the New York Knicks.
The expectation remains that the return will come in Thursday's Game 3 at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Asked if the Heat have been game planning for Embiid, Spoelstra said, "quite a bit."
"We had to, leading up to the first game," he said of Saturday's postseason opener that the Heat dropped 130-103, "because we didn't know for absolutely certain, until I see him not walk out there. So we had to prepare for him.
"And when he comes back officially, it looks like Game 3, that we'll have to revisit that again."
Just how dramatically the approach reverts to what the 76rers had emphasized prior to Embiid's injury remains to be seen. But Spoelstra said the preparations for the series' first two games have been with a focus on the perimeter.
"That's a little bit more shooting," he said. "They play through Simmons significantly more when Embiid's not there. And the multiple of catch-and-shoots that they play with, it's more so than when Embiid's playing."
Spoelstra said it won't necessarily mean having to fully reload his players' iPads, just that the old 1.0 software may have to be reinstalled.
"They still are the same team when he's there, in that they play fast, they move their shooters, they move you around," he said. "But it's even more when he's out, so we have to be prepared for that."
The Heat's process comes lower case.
Instead of years in the making, like The Process that had the 76ers languishing at the bottom of the standings until this postseason breakthrough, the Heat take stock on a yearly basis of how the pieces in place can produce maximum results.
And then you get to the playoffs, where the adjustments come on a game-by-game basis. That now has Spoelstra weighing how much to change as opposed to staying to what has gotten his team to this point.
"The playoffs require being who you are. You better have habits," Spoelstra said. "But they also require doing things better, doing things to counteract whatever you're facing. That's not exclusive to our series or us or Philly. Everybody has to do that. That's this time of the year."
So while Spoelstra trusts his lower-case process, he appreciates that the playoffs also have you living in the moment.
"That's our job," he said of his staff's adjustments. "And that doesn't mean that we're always making the right decisions, either. The playoffs are going with what you think is best, what you think you've done best over a long period of time. And, then, what you think you may have to adjust, depending on what's happening at the current moment."
The difference this time of year is that there is not necessarily a long view, and not necessarily time to consider feelings when it comes to a quick hook or reduction of playing time.
"I have great empathy for our players going through everything that they do during the course of a season, all the ups and all the downs," Spoelstra said. "And it's not easy for players not to be out there expressing themselves physically with a purity of trying to help the team. I get that.
"We've had a well-balanced team all year long and our strength has been our depth and our versatility and our ability to use it based on how we need to use it. The playoffs, that comes to the forefront probably a little bit more."