CHICAGO -- The streak hasn’t been without some lucky breaks.
In five of the Heat’s past six games, opponents have been without key contributors. On Wednesday at United Center, the Bulls were without starting center Joakim Noah, starting two-guard Richard Hamilton, reserve Marco Belinelli and, of course, Derrick Rose.
Before the game, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra acknowledged “luck” as a contributing factor to the streak. The Heat defeated the Cavaliers after trailing by 27 points. Would that comeback have been possible if Cleveland was playing with Dion Waiters and Kyrie Irving?
And what about that two-point victory in Boston when the Celtics were without Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo?
The Pistons played in Miami without Brandon Knight and Andre Drummond last week. The Magic went up against the Heat’s winning streak without center Nikola Vucevic and Arron Afflalo.
From the Harlem Shake video to photo bombs by Chris Bosh, the Heat has kept it light during the streak. But that doesn’t mean the team is silly behind the scenes.
“That’s their personalities. We’re OK with that,” Spoelstra said. “But when it’s time to go to work, these guys have been very professional.
“Discipline from our standpoint is to focus on our process. While no one wants to hear it, our storyline is different. We’re trying to get better; we’re trying to improve, and for us to be able to do that we have to focus on the moment just tonight.”
One of the more underappreciated aspects of the winning streak has been the improved play of the Heat’s bench. During the Heat’s back-to-back against the Bobcats and Magic, the team’s reserves accounted for 22 of 28 total three-pointers.
“That group has been gaining confidence for the last two weeks,” Spoelstra said. “They’ve been coming in and sparking us with their energy and they’re gaining more confidence offensively.
“We want them to play with a freedom and an aggression. The ball is moving and they’re helping each other get shots. That’s giving us more steady, consistent play than the gaps we were having early on.”
The further expansion of Norris Cole’s game has contributed to the bench’s production. Cole was 6 of 8 from three-point range during the back-to-back.
“He’s been working on that all year,” Spoelstra said of Cole’s three-point shooting. “We still want him to be an aggressive, attacking player.”
Spoelstra said the Heat has “slowly” helped Cole develop a reliable corner three-pointer.
“It’s steady improvement,” Spoelstra said. “It’s not drastic but steady.”