Barry Jackson

Heat not celebrating streak; McGruder’s rise; Johnson’s shoulder

Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic drives against Atlanta Hawks forward Kent Bazemor (24) during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Wed., Feb. 1, 2017.
Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic drives against Atlanta Hawks forward Kent Bazemor (24) during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Wed., Feb. 1, 2017. dsantiago@elnuevoherald.com

How do you make a room full of Heat players turn quiet?

Ask them about the team’s ongoing 12-game winning streak.

They’ve all become masters at downplaying what stands as the third-longest winning streak in franchise history, tied for the longest winning streak in the NBA this season and the longest winning streak ever by a team with a losing record.

“We’re not even talking about it,” forward Rodney McGruder said. “I feel like you get full of yourself when you talk about how good you are, and that’s not something we’re going to do. We’re just trying to stay the course, stay in the moment and stay level-headed.”

Asked if 12 in a row is meaningful and a source of pride, forward James Johnson said: “I don’t think so. I honestly don’t…. We’re not celebrating.

“From the outside world looking in, it probably looks different or lucky,” Johnson added. “Not for us. We were trending in the right way offensively and defensively. We were losing clutch games, but we weren’t losing to terrible teams. We were playing great teams, and we never made excuses for ourselves.”

Point guard Goran Dragic said players don’t discuss the streak and he’s “always thinking who the next opponent is.”

Players’ reluctance to discuss the matter is in sync with the approach of coach Erik Spoelstra, who answered Fox Sports Sun reporter Jason Jackson’s query about the streak with a wry smile and this response:

“I’m not going to talk about the streak. You might be able to get those guys. It’s more about a group of players coming together to form an identity as a team and embrace each other, embrace a culture, embrace defending with a purpose.

“We saw this group was building habits, even through some of the losses. Our mindset is not going to change right now. It’s not about the wins or the streak or any of that. It’s about continue to try to get better. It’s one of the toughest things to do, not only in pro sports but in everyday life, just to focus on the improvement every day.”

McGRUDER’S RISE

Spoelstra and Heat teammates continue to rave about McGruder, who followed Monday’s career-high 15-point game at Minnesota with a 10-point, 6-rebound, 3-assist game in Milwaukee, an effort that featured his trademark hustle and deft defense.

After the 106-88 win at BMO Harris Bradley Center, Spoelstra said the coaching staff gave McGruder “the proverbial game ball. It felt like he had 22 points, 15 assists.”

Dragic said McGruder is a “working machine. He’s in the gym 24/7. That’s why he’s playing so great.”

Dragic said he has never seen a player more skilled at grabbing “50/50 balls” in scrambles on the court.

“It’s amazing,” center Hassan Whiteside said. “I’ve never seen someone put their nose on the ball on every possession [like that]. He’s really hungry. Ever since we brought him up from the jungle, he’s been eating.”

JOHNSON WORKING BACK

After missing five games with a strained left shoulder, Heat guard Tyler Johnson has shot 34 percent (16 for 47) in five games back.

“It’s not rust,” Johnson said. “It’s the mechanics of the shoulder moving differently. I’m trying to figure out how to get back the rhythm of my shot. I’m not overly concerned.”

Johnson said there’s no “discomfort” in the shoulder but it’s “just kind of weak. I’ve amped up the rehab on it.”

• According to ESPN, the Heat is the second team in NBA history with a double-digit win streak despite having no All-Stars play in any of them. The other: the 2007-08 Portland Trail Blazers.

For my post on why Heat players are appreciative of Pat Riley, Riley’s message to fans and a player with another team who intrigues Miami as the trade deadline approaches, please click here.

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