MIAMI — Someone else will have to stop the Miami Heat … and their 18-game (and counting) win streak.
The Indiana Pacers simply were not up to the task Sunday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. They said all the right things before opening tip and even gave the impression that they planned on backing up their talk of this being a heated rivalry. But midway through the third quarter, the air had been sucked out of the building.
The Eastern Conference’s second best team, the one with two wins over the Heat, is no different from any of the other victims during the Heat’s franchise-best win streak. In fact, the Heat tossed the Pacers aside in this one without their best player breaking much of a sweat in a 105-91 rout.
LeBron James (season-low 13 points, seven assists and six rebounds) didn’t have to kick his game into overdrive with his supporting cast of Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Mario Chalmers doing all of the damage they did throughout the game. They all watched the final two minutes of this one from the bench, each one of them enjoying the scenery after Chalmers shredded the Pacers for a game-high 26 points on 7-for-9 shooting from the floor (5-for-6 from deep) and seven rebounds, Bosh hit them for 24 points on 11-for-15 shooting and Wade stuck them for 23 more on 9-for-16 shooting.
Bosh said last week that James is the best player on the planet and also has the best supporting cast.
Sunday’s work, which gave the Heat the distinction of defeating every team in the league at least once this season, could serve as the latest and most glaring example of that fact.
“No question,” Wade said. “I don’t know a lot about it, but you can’t win an Oscar unless everyone does their job on a movie. He doesn’t have to score 30 every night. Our teammates are very confident and we love it when they come out aggressive. We’re a total team. We’re not going to have one guy iso and take 20 or 30 shots a night. We have guys who move the ball around and our teammates understand and they are ready.”
It’s not often that Chalmers leads the Heat in scoring and rebounding. But he relishes these spotlight games as much as anyone in the Heat locker room, as he proved during the Heat’s title run last season.
“Mario loves these kinds of games,” Wade said. “When he’s shooting the ball that way the floor is spread and we’re a lot tougher as a team. That’s how he played last year in big games and The Finals. We love it when he’s aggressive and shooting the ball that way.”
Bosh was often the one with the ball in his hands as the shot clock ticked down. He drained shots and looked plenty comfortable doing so, with and without defenders in his face, from all over the floor.
“I can handle it now. I can handle it,” Bosh said calmly from his locker after the game, doing his best not to be offended by questions that suggest we should all be stunned that an eight-time All-Star was willing and able to take and make big shots alongside James and Wade.
It’s never been just about James or just Wade, he said. And he’s ready for his role, whatever it might be on a given night, be it working as “the man” or as a member of the “supporting cast.”
“It’s always been like that, at least in my mind,” Bosh said. “We know what the stigma is out there [about us]. We can play a lot of different ways. We have so many guys that can play so well.”
Someone will get the Heat sooner or later. This current tear won’t last forever. The Los Angeles Lakers’ record 33-game win streak is not in danger at this moment, at least not until the Heat’s streak climbs into the mid 20s.
But it’s clear this Heat team is capable of treading on that hallowed ground, especially if they can keep mustering up these kinds of efforts against what is supposed to be the best of the best.
James said he still doesn’t know where this particular group can go, how many more gears they have. He’s also not concerned about that or the streak right now. He’s won plenty of regular season games, statement games and otherwise, and they mean nothing without the proper ending to the postseason.
He respects the process the Heat are going through right now, even if he’s not as caught up in the streak as some others obviously are and will be as long as it continues.
“That was never one of our goals coming into this season, how many games we could win in a row,” James said. “Our goal is to win a championship and not take any shortcuts in that process.”
A focused, healthy, energized and highly motivated Heat team is in the process of showing just how big that gap is between the best team in the Eastern Conference (and perhaps the league) and everyone else.