The streak lives today — 25 and counting — even though the Heat again let a lottery-bound opponent surge ahead by double-digits and hang around much longer than it probably should have.
But there isn’t much room, or reason, for complaining when you haven’t lost in seven weeks, even though Erik Spoelstra expressed some concern afterward, which is what coaches naturally do.
The Heat followed a lackluster first half with a clinic in passing and swarming defense in the second half, dispatching the Detroit Pistons, 103-89, at AmericanAirlines Arena to climb within eight games of matching the NBA record for consecutive victories.
“We didn’t get off to an energetic start. We can’t sleepwalk into games,” Spoelstra said. “It’s concerning. It’s not nitpicking. It’s an area we need to address. We were a little flat in the first half, but in the second half, the urgency was much better.”
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The Heat shot a sizzling 62.5 percent in the second half Friday (20-for-32) and overcame a 1-for-7 shooting night from Chris Bosh, who didn’t hit a basket from the field until 5:47 left in the game.
But James more than compensated, hitting 12 of 15 shots on a 29-point night, with eight rebounds, eight assists and two steals.
Dwyane Wade shook off a frustrating start (1-for-5 shooting, four turnovers, one technical foul through late in the first half) to close with 19 points, on 7-for-17 shooting, with three steals and sharp defense.
Shane Battier (11 points) hit a key three in a third-quarter surge – and converted three free throws on another three-point attempt.
And don’t overlook the work of the Heat’s point guard tandem, who have been efficient throughout this run of excellence.
Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole each had four steals. Chalmers scored 11, running the Heat’s record to 19-1 when he scores in double figures. Cole harassed the Pistons defensively and made four of five shots on a 10-point night.
The Heat — which leads the league in shooting percentage at just under 50 percent — shot 55.9 percent for the game. More impressive was the second-half defense: The Pistons had barely more field goals (13) than turnovers (12) after intermission.
“They caught us off guard in the first half with a few of their sets,” James said. “We cleaned it up after halftime.”
Still, this wasn’t the way Spoelstra wanted this to play out initially, with the Pistons opening 12-for-19 from the field and establishing an 11-point lead – this, after Cleveland built a 27-point cushion Wednesday against Miami before wilting. In his pregame media session, he emphasized the need for a strong start, especially defensively.
Despite trailing at halftime for a third consecutive game, the Heat is now 17-9 in that scenario, having won its last nine when trailing at intermission.
“It doesn’t matter,” Wade said of the halftime deficits. “Obviously, we want to start off better. We just find ways to win games. That’s all that matters.”
Besides the overall winning streak, the Heat also won its 16th in a row at home, two short of the franchise record.
Wade said people on Twitter have been telling him to “stop giving them a heart attack” with close games and deficits. “But it keeps people watching,” he said. “Everyone wants to win by 30 every night. Sorry, guys.”
Even with the Heat just eight games behind the 1971-72 Lakers’ all-time win streak record, James insisted afterward the record “is not a goal.”
The Heat’s defense stiffened in the second half, with Miami contesting shots more vigorously, allowing less airspace for Pistons shooters, filling passing lanes and forcing six turnovers in the third and six more in the fourth.
Detroit – which led 54-51 at the half – shot 5-for-19 in the third quarter and 8-for-24 in the fourth. Overall, Miami converted 22 Pistons turnovers into 27 points.
Down by seven, the Heat outscored the Pistons 21-9 for the final nine minutes of the third quarter – a run started by three baskets from Wade, including a dunk after he stole Kyle Singler’s pass.
The third-quarter spurt ended with a four-point play (a Shane Battier three and a free throw from Chris Andersen) and a LeBron James layup off a Norris Cole pass in transition.
The Heat’s good work continued into the fourth, with the Wade, James and Norris Cole all delivering pinpoint passes for easy baskets as the Heat stretched the lead to 92-78.
In all, quite a difference from a first half when the Pistons led the entire second quarter. In the first half, Greg Monroe filled the box score with 14 points and seven rebounds, and Jose Calderon had 16 points and six assists. But Calderon went 1 for 4 in the second half. Monroe closed with 23 and 15, outplaying Bosh.
The Pistons played without former Pine Crest guard Brandon Knight (ankle).