MIAMI — LeBron James bounced into the Miami Heat locker room after Sunday’s win over the Charlotte Bobcats with an ideal postgame celebration for birthday man Chris Bosh, who turned 29 as the Heat pushed their win streak to 26 games.
“Hey Chris,” James said as Bosh stood on the other side of the room, “let’s go catch the end of Ultra [Music Festival]. I think I’ve got a pair of neon kicks over here.”
As icebreakers go in what should be a tension-filled locker room, James knocked that one out of the park. The 150,000 revelers who invaded the park next to AmericanAirlines Arena for the alternative/techno music festival, which ended Sunday, were colorful, to say the least.
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There are really no icebreakers needed in the Heat locker room. Any fun they are having, from video bombs to player-on-player postgame interviews (check the video above) to the highlight reel stretches during games, it’s all organic. That’s also why there is an absence of internal pressure in chasing the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers’ record 33-game win streak.
Back in 2011, in this team’s first season together, the Heat crumbled under the pressure during The Finals, falling to a Dallas team that was a heavy underdog to the rock star roster of James, Bosh and Dwyane Wade. The lessons learned from that experience help explain why this streak hasn’t been more of an emotional grind than it needs to be. The Heat are actually playing with house money, and they know it. If they match or break the streak, great. But they know their season won’t be defined by it. Beat the streak or not, their real goals are still out there.
“I think, where we’ve been, we have matured a lot because of circumstances since we’ve been here,” Bosh said. “For whatever reason there has always been a lot of criticism of this team since we got together. So when it’s all positivity, it’s like OK, ‘Let’s just play basketball.’ Just like with the negative things that came. We just played basketball and let our play on the court do the talking and nothing else.”
This has to be an interesting time for James, who was criticized routinely for orchestrating the same sort of loose atmosphere in Cleveland. Of course, there was the absence of a championship ring during his Cleveland days. But the dancing on the sidelines and the faux-picture posing that was a part of the Cavaliers’ pre-game routine when he was there were often cited as one of the reasons James wasn’t ready to be a champion.
Good luck passing that theory around these days. The Heat are loving every minute of this and refuse to change their ways.
“It’s just who we are. It’s our nature,” said James, who insisted no matter how much fun you see, this Heat team remains focused on winning at the highest level. “We’re just playing each game and approaching each game like it’s its own, because it is. And whatever the result is we are OK with that. What we could not be comfortable with is or happy with is we don’t go out and play our game or take steps backward.”
That’s why Monday night’s opportunity to win No. 27 in Orlando feels the same as any other game they’ve played this season.
If there is any fatigue, any at all, it’s on the physical side. Wade missed Sunday’s game with a sore right knee. And the Heat have to be careful with the remainder of the regular season. They can’t afford to burn their superstars out before the playoffs.
“It is physically exhausting to play every game at a high level,” Bosh said. “It’s extremely difficult. But, like I say, it’s healthy for you because that’s how it’s going to be in the playoffs. You have to be drained and dog tired after every game, because if you are not, you’re probably cheating yourself and your team. So you want to feel like you gave it your all. We are getting a lot of practice, we’re getting the best practice because it’s in games.”