- Heat vs. Pacers: Series Hub
INDIANAPOLIS – Before he knew it, the words had slipped out and Udonis Haslem wound up revealing the secret of the Miami Heat’s remarkable resiliency in responding to defeats.
Bad rest and bad nutrition.
Somehow that has translated into a team that has gone more than four months, and 60 games, without losing two in a row. And that matters right now because, unless the Indiana Pacers figure out a way over the next week to impose a losing streak on the Heat of at least that duration, the Pacers’ season will be over.
As Haslem tells it, the Heat players are so accustomed to winning that, when they don’t, it’s a complete shock to their systems.
“I can’t really speak for other teams, but for us it’s a sickening feeling,” the veteran Miami forward said after the team’s brief workout at Bankers Life Fieldhouse Monday. “We don’t sleep – and we talk about it the next day, how we didn’t sleep. For me personally, I go home and I don’t want to eat.
“It just brings a sick feeling to my stomach and a sense of desperation that we come back and play the next game with.”
See, it’s the magic elixir that cures losing streak: Bad rest and bad nutrition.
“Don’t tell Bill Foran [the Heat’s strength and conditioning coach] that,” Haslem said, with a laugh. “But yeah, it’s weird. We talk about it all the time: Very rarely do we eat or sleep the way we’re supposed to after we lose a game. Especially in the playoffs.”
It’s easy enough to see how Miami might have developed this adverse reaction to scoring fewer points than their opponent. Their 27-game game winning streak that stretched from the start of February to the end of March made losing even once a strange and rare experience for them. Two in a row? They haven’t deal with that since Jan. 10-12, at the start of a six-game trip spent mostly on the West Coast.
Since then, including their 10-2 run so far in the postseason, they are 53-7, an .833 winning percentage. Over a full 82-game schedule, playing at that clip would get the Heat to 72-10, which would match the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls’ all-time mark.
Asked about Miami’s bounce-back-ability, guard Dwyane Wade sounded a little like some coaches, who live for the “teaching moments” that losing can generate. It’s difficult to get a good team’s full attention when the bottom line looks fine, even when it’s really not.
“When you win, a lot of things are masked,” Wade said. “You don’t really look at everything once you win. But once you lose, you get to break down everything. Our attention to detail coming off a loss is a lot better. We’re a mature team and once the coaches put the game plan in front of us, once they point out the mistakes … we take it for what it is, we try to correct it.”
That explained Miami’s shift from Games 1 and 2 in these East finals when Indiana outplayed them in south Florida to their breakout attack in Game 3. As the series shifted to the Pacers’ building, Miami seized the momentum and the math by scoring 70 points in the first half on 62.8-percent shooting. The attention to detail paid immediate dividends.
“We wish we can not come off losses, but it happens,” LeBron James said, at the risk of sounding a little greedy. “We love the fact that, you know, they took the home court away from us and now ‘Let’s see what we are made of.’ This is a great group of guys that’s always loved, I think, the pressure moments of being 1-1; a team taking our home court away and we have to go on the road to win.”
Considering that it can kill their appetites and steal their sleep, it’s more than just taking offense at another team’s success. The sense of something special slipping away – a shot at winning consecutive NBA championships in thise case – becomes tangible, creating the worry that turns into motivation.
“We have a goal,” Haslem said. “We have a dream we’re trying to reach. When somebody is close to taking that away from us, it places a fear in our gut. Then we come out and lay it on the line.”
As for that threat of losing two in a row as this postseason continues, Haslem found the sports cliché that actually applies in this case. “We’ll take it one game at a time,” he said.