One day, every man on the Heat roster will be able to look back at right now.
Not necessarily because of the historic streak they’re riding into Sunday against Indiana at home but because the composition of the reigning champions is something special.
Dwyane Wade hopes that when they look back, they’ll be proud of the moments they are creating together.
The 17 consecutive wins they’re carrying around rather nonchalantly is really just the extra spoonful of icing on a well-baked cake.
In the locker room after Friday’s 102-93 win over the Philadelphia 76ers, there was barely a mention (and not an ounce of confetti) to show that the team is the first to clinch a postseason berth and still has 22 games to go. It’s another piece of history that they can all look back on and enjoy.
“This is a group that I don’t take for granted because it’s rare that you get a team that a) can win it all, and b) has future Hall of Famers on the roster,” Shane Battier said. “It’s just fun to compete with these guys every single night and try to take this team as far as it can go.”
On Friday, it seemed that everyone got a piece.
It can go as far as 37-year-old Ray Allen stealing the ball to dunk in the second quarter, or LeBron James only playing 34 minutes, feeling confident enough to let a rotation without him close out the game.
James also notched his 1,000th career three-point shot from the center of the arc, even though he’s averaging the second-lowest amount of minutes in his career.
Norris Cole emerged from within the paint for an offensive rebound, and Battier had his first two-point field goal in 45 attempts. Allen even made a perfect pass to coach Erik Spoelstra.
“I’m a part of a special team. What we have in this locker room is way better than seasons where I had to carry the load. A lot of people patted me on the back for that,” Wade said. “I’d rather it [be] this way, where you have a team, any given night, anybody can lead this team to victory.”
Evan Turner, the 76ers’ second-year forward, put the secret to playing the stacked roster quite plainly after the 76ers fell hard in the second half of their loss to the Heat: “You can’t make mistakes.”
Philadelphia’s loss marked its 12th in a row on the road. Though most of the Heat players have experienced the other end of the spectrum, no one wants to carry it into a game, even if the opponent is hard-pressed for wins.
“There is little to no honor among thieves in the NBA,” Battier said.
It’s been over a decade since Battier’s career began with the Memphis Grizzlies, who were hoarding losses at the time.
“I’ve been on the other end where you’re just trying to put together a few wins and teams are merciless towards you,” he said. “That’s just what it is.”
The Heat can expect Sunday’s matchup with the Pacers — the final meeting of three — will be a gritty, merciless battle of its own.
Wade emphasized that for this game, it’s about handing back the losses the Heat has been handily delivered in the two previous match ups, not about the winning streak.
“We’ve done exactly what the [Los Angeles] Clippers have done this year; it’s always great to be in the company of the historic part of the game,” Wade said. “But right now, our focus is what’s next — Indiana coming here, being a team who has beaten us twice.”
The Heat has to rely on every man on the roster to create more big moments against the Pacers and collectively lift the team to a victory. How they’re going to do it, Wade said, “I guess we’ll see.”
“Each game is its own challenge,” Spoelstra said, noting the team is well aware they’ve been “pounded” by the Pacers this season. “This is one that everybody gets what they want: the fans get a game they think is compelling, Indiana wants to play us, and we want to compete against them.”