Miami Heat

March 8, 2013

After close call, Miami Heat tries to preserve win streak versus 76ers

After edging Orlando, Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said his team needs to concentrate on improving instead of its 16-game win streak.

Everybody’s streaking these days and everybody’s talking about it.

LeBron James tweeted a shout out to the Chicago Blackhawks at 5:07 a.m. Thursday. The Hawks had just extended their streak to 24 games without a regulation loss with a last-minute win over the Colorado Avalanche.

“The Heat and the Blackhawks, the Heat and the Blackhawks,” Chris Bosh mimicked at Thursday’s practice.

Even the Kansas City Royals have a streak. The ball club is undefeated through 10 games of spring training.

The Miami Heat will look for its 17th consecutive victory on Friday night when the Philadelphia 76ers pay a visit to AmericanAirlines Arena. A Heat win would tie for the 12th-longest winning streak in NBA history.

As good as winning feels, coach Erik Spoelstra encouraged his team to focus on the details after the Heat blew a big lead and scratched out a last-minute win over the Orlando Magic on Wednesday.

“I’m more concerned about the process,” Spoelstra said Thursday. “The more we talk about wins and streaks, the less we’re thinking about what we need to do to improve. That’s what today was about.”

After Miami built a 20-point lead early in the third quarter, the Magic turned the tables, outscoring the Heat 46-21. Miami, as it has done many times this season, pulled off a too-close-for-comfort win when LeBron James made a driving layup with 3.2 seconds remaining.

“Are we comfortable and complacent with that win? I certainly hope not, and that’s why we came in here and worked,” the coach said.

It’s understandable why Spoelstra treads cautiously in winning territory. He was an assistant on Pat Riley’s 2007-08 team that fell to dead last in the Eastern Conference with a season-victory total (15) that falls short of the Heat’s current win streak.

“We lost 17 straight, I think. I swear it felt like 100,” Dwyane Wade said. “It was terrible. We weren’t a good team. When we were in games, we didn’t know how to close them out, we didn’t know how to win.”

It seems far-fetched to imagine that the Heat couldn’t generate wins. This season’s roster, even at its worst defensive moments, is capable of putting on the heroics late in games. The win over Orlando on Wednesday was testament to that element of Heat basketball.

“That’s why I think I can appreciate the way we’ve been able to win games in this streak because you’re not going to win all of them the same way,” Wade said. “Some of them you’re going to have to win ugly.”

Though the visiting Sixers have provided little challenge to the overbearing athleticism and talent of the Heat, the real work according to Bosh is for the entire roster to maintain the energy and focus that’s required to win.

“Just to win is a privilege in this league. You’re lucky if you get to win constantly,” the center said. He has enough firsthand experience in his years with the Raptors to understand streaks of the losing variety.

“What’s most important is that we don’t lose focus of how we got there,” Bosh said. “It’s easier said than done, but [we have] to bring the same intensity night by night that’s required to win basketball games and play up to our level.”

Seven of Miami’s past 12 wins over Philadelphia have been by double-digits. In the last meeting, the Heat outshot the Sixers 58.4 to 44.9 percent, and matched a season-low with six turnovers committed.

Spoelstra continued to stress that playing to the Heat’s identity and committing to defend has been more important than the franchise-record streak.

“Our game right now hopefully is not our game that we’re bringing into the playoffs; hopefully it’s another notch or two above this.”

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