MIAMI – All those texts, Tweets and subliminal messages from friends, family and fans were answered by the Miami Heat this time.
Sure, they trailed at halftime for the ninth straight game Friday night against a Detroit Pistons team still searching for its 24th win of the season. But that didn’t stop the Heat from cruising when it mattered most, at winning time, on their way to their 25th straight win, a somewhat methodical 103-89 disposal before an appreciative AmericanAirlines Arena crowd.
Instead of the heart attack finishes they’ve been delivering recently, Boston Monday night and then Wednesday in Cleveland, they simply ran away from the Pistons late in the third quarter and into the fourth. And it was a welcome sight for guys like Shane Battier, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James.
Never mind the fact that they’re eight games from the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers’ NBA record 33-game win streak, and all of the pressure that comes with chasing that mark. Sometimes you just want to take the edge off for family and friends whose emotions rise and fall with every double-digit deficit incurred and every heart-racing comeback.
“My parents, they’re great fans and a lot more emotional than I am about this than I am,” Battier said. “I told them ‘sorry, we’re working on playing better.’”
At least they could keep the TV on for the game against the Pistons. The win in Cleveland, when the Heat rallied from a 27-point deficit behind huge shots from Battier and James in particular, was too much.
“They didn’t turn the TV off but they were close,” Battier said. “They’re a little older so they were close to going to bed.”
Just finding ways to win games sounds reasonable enough for the Heat. But lost in the haze of their streak is the fact that they are taking the best shot the rest of the league has to give basically every night.
The Pistons came into the night on the complete opposite end of the standings spectrum, having lost nine straight games. But if you were one of the folks in town for the Ultra Music Festival and wandered into the arena by accident and watched the first half, you would have been hard-pressed to identify the team on the losing streak from the team on the second-best winning streak in NBA history.
“Everybody wants to win by 30 every night,” Wade said. “Sorry guys, it’s not possible.”
They aren’t crazy. They realize that they are in the midst of a stretch — against the Cavaliers, Pistons, Charlotte Bobcats (Sunday) and Orlando Magic (Monday) — where a team 50 games over .500 should have no trouble handling its business against the lottery crowd.
“Win the games we’re supposed to win,” Wade said. “Right now we’re playing teams that we are better than and we are winning games we’re supposed to win.”
That’s easy to do when you always have an advantage in the, as Wade put it, ”games within the game.” An 11-point deficit with James and Wade there to dig you out of it looks completely different when you are hoping that Jose Calderon and Greg Monroe rescue you.
Heat coach Erick Spoelstra isn’t overly concerned about the sluggish starts, but he is by no means dismissing them.
“It’s on the radar,” he said. “There’s no question about it. We need to put together complete games. Now it has been three games in a row where we haven’t gotten off to the energetic start that we’re looking for, so we’ll have an opportunity to get back to it on Sunday. But no excuses. We are not making excuses for ourselves.”
The Heat don’t have to make excuses for winning all the time, especially not with James dominating on both ends the way he did against the Pistons. He finished his night with 29 points, on 12-for-15 shooting from the floor, eight rebounds, eight assists and two steals.
Catching and passing the Lakers is not one of the career milestones James had on his bucket list. So while he’s honored to be a part of a team chasing that historical ghost, he said he feels no pressure to pacify others who are caught up in the hype of what this team is doing right now. And that includes anyone texting after games about their blood pressure spiking at the end of games like the one in Cleveland.
“Right now we are taking each and every game as its own,” he said. “We need to prepare for the next one, which is Sunday. I am not going to sit here and downplay it and act like I don’t know what the record is. I know it’s 33. But we don’t get caught up and say, ‘okay, eight games until we get it.’ We just play our next game and see what happens.”