MIAMI — Find any team in any sport that’s won as much as the Miami Heat have the past two months and it would be easy for said team to develop a certain sense of entitlement.
That’s just the nature of the success beast, even when you are fighting against such things.
Rolling up 25 straight wins, the second-best streak in NBA history, would be cause for celebration anywhere else but here. The Heat tried that premature celebration thing three years ago and it blew up in their faces in The Finals, when the Dallas Mavericks ruined their parade plans.
So the reminders to stay humble and focused on the task at hand are already ingrained in this bunch, from Erik Spoelstra and his detail-oriented coaching staff to a locker room full of players, from superstars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade all the way down to its most recent addition Chris “Birdman” Andersen.
“All you have to do is look at our first halves the last couple of games,” veteran forward Shane Battier said. “We have room to improve. By no stretch of the imagination are we playing our best basketball right now. We are winning ballgames, but we have a lot of room for improvement.”
Room for improvement for a team that hasn’t lost a game since Feb. 1?
Sure, whatever you say Shane.
Then again, when you have a Charlotte team with the worst record in the league coming to town Sunday as you prepare for win No. 26 in the streak, you stay focused by any means necessary.
“We have a coaching staff that will tell us,” Chris Bosh said. “We just have guys who really stay on each other and nobody gets ahead of themselves. We know that you have to stay humble. If you have success, you take it in stride.”
That doesn’t mean the Heat have shed any of the core confidence that made them champions last season.
“We expect to win every game,” Bosh said. “”I’ve always expected to win every game. And now we’re actually winning every game.”
Winning every game in all kinds of ways. The comebacks have been a bit dramatic of late. The Heat’s low energy starts are a concern, but as James put it, “I’d rather come out the way we’ve come out and finish strong than come out strong and finish weak.”
That’s sound logic when you can change a game in an instant with a play on either end of the floor. But players play and coaches coach. And no coach worth his whistle is going to suffer through the sluggish starts the Heat have without going back to his tool box to try to fix it.
“It’s an area we need to address,” Spoelstra said. “This team has shown that now for three years that when there’s a particular aspect of the game we’re not playing the way we are capable of, we address it. We show up. We work on it and we try to improve on it. Hopefully, it will change on Sunday.”
Even if it doesn’t change Sunday, it has to change. The playoffs are coming and sluggish starts won’t get it done in the postseason.