Posts Tagged ‘Heat Streak’

Heat Thrive With ‘Best Supporting Cast’

ORLANDO — One of the unintended benefits of a team plowing through week after week of a 27-game (and counting) win streak is the collective strain it puts on not just a team’s superstars, but also it’s supporting cast.

And in the case of the Miami Heat, that would be, as All-Star forward Chris Bosh coined it, “the best supporting cast in the business.” Bosh was, of course, speaking about the cast surrounding reigning MVP LeBron James, a group headlined by Dwyane Wade and himself.

But those three superstars have the added benefit of leaning on what has developed into the best cast of veteran, high basketball IQ specailists in the business. From stalwarts like Udonis HaslemRay Allen and Shane Batter to Mike Miller and Chris “Birdman” Andersen to Norris Cole and occasionally James Jones or even Joel Anthony, the Heat found ways to tap into their resources at the right time throughout this streak.

It’s a delicate balance, knowing who to go to, and when. But it’s a luxury that Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and his staff have cultivated for the past three seasons. And for a team that will need every player to defend their title, this streak and the finish of this regular season could prove to be crucial in ensuring the reserves are ready for that grind.

“They are gaining more and more confidence,” Spoelstra said. “They really are. It doesn’t really matter which group we have out there. They take it to heart that they want to put together good minutes on the scoreboard. Those guys are just stepping up and giving us good minutes.”

Great minutes, actually, in spurts.

Cole scored a season-high 15 points and led seven scorers off the bench in Sunday’s win over Charlotte, the first of two straight games the Heat played without Wade, who sat out with a sore right knee. Cole (3-for-4), Allen (4-for-5) and Battier (2-for-5) lit it up from distance as the Heat used an 11-for-13 barrage from 3-point range to subdue the Bobcats.

Miller started in place of Wade Sunday and played 22 minutes in the win over the Bobcats. That’s the exact same number of minutes he played in the 10 games before that, and looked comfortable doing it. He started again Monday night against Orlando, making three of his six shots from the floor in 20 minutes against the Magic.

He attempted a total of four shots in those 10 games prior to his Bobcats start, but didn’t hesitate Sunday night, uncorking a couple of 3-pointers in the opening minutes of that game.

“My view was to just fill in,” Miller said. “But you can’t be shy. My motto is to let it fly. That helps our team, when our shooters are aggressive it opens up lanes for everybody else.”

Cole, Andersen and ex-Magic All-Star Rashard Lewis (11 points, courtesy of a 3-for-5 shooting effort from long-range) provided the boost the Heat needed to get win No. 27, outscoring the Magic reserves 42-15. The Heat are 26-1 this season when its reserves outscore the opposition’s.

“It’s just knowing your role and knowing what’s needed,” Battier said. “It’s the way we’ve worked all season long and right now it’s the perfect complement to what we’re doing offensively. Our main goal on offense is to create space to allow our best guys the room they need to operate. The only way to do that is to put shooters around them. So when we get the open looks, we have to make shots. It all has to work together.”

Making sure the bench was ready was of critical importance for Spoelstra, though he wouldn’t have forced the issue down the stretch of the regular season. Not with the type of veterans the Heat have.

“They’ve already had a body of work,” he said. “They’ve been called upon at times this year, and they are keeping themselves ready. The most important thing is all the work they’ve been doing behind the scenes. You could whither away on the sidelines by not playing if you didn’t have the right attitude. But our guys come in every single day. They do their conditioning and they also stay in it mentally. They do it every day.”

You win 27 straight games and everybody has to bring it — the superstars and the “best supporting cast in the business.”

What Does It Take To Beat The Heat?


ORLANDO — Your turn, Chicago.

Maybe you can do what hasn’t been done for a staggering 27 straight games, and stop the freight train that is the Miami Heat. The Detroit Pistons, Charlotte Bobcats and Orlando Magic — all members of the Eastern Conference lottery mafia — tried their best to derail the Heat’s plans to surpass the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers’ record 33-game win streak.

Maybe another playoff team, catching the Heat on the second game of a four-game road trip after two straight games missed by All-Star shooting guard Dwyane Wade (sore knee), can finally solve the Heat riddle?

Or not?

That Wednesday night showdown with the Chicago Bulls at the United Center doesn’t look so daunting after all, not when LeBron James is a part of the festivities. He started slow but wound up one rebound shy of a triple double (24 points and 11 assists) in the 108-94 win over the Magic on Monday. The Heat always have a chance to walk out of an arena a winner with King James on the court.

Even on a team without Wade, James serves as the perfect catalyst for a veteran team filled with specialists who are comfortable with their roles. In addition to the shine of their stars, the Heat have shown off that depth during the streak.

“That is what this team is built around,” James said, being generous, of course, since this team is built around him and Wade and fellow All-Star Chris Bosh. “A lot of depth and veterans, guys that know that when someone is out then guys are going to be able to step in. That feeling that D-Wade was out was like, ‘okay, now it’s time for someone to step up,’ which we know we are capable of doing so.”

As much as this streak is about the Heat and their record chase, this is about the other teams (10 who don’t have as many wins on the season as the Heat have in the streak) deciding who among them will step forward and end this thing.

The Heat can’t suffer through their usual first half swoon and climb out of a double-digit hole against a lunch pail crew like the Bulls, who will no doubt be amped-up for a chance to punch a hole in the Heat’s cosmic ride.

And that Friday night tilt in New Orleans looks a whole lot tougher after the Hornets ended the Denver Nuggets’ 15-game win streak tonight in a 110-86 waxing at New Orleans Arena.

Motivation is great, a fine tool to work with for any ambitious team. But, again, is it going to be enough to beat the Heat?

Those who have tried and failed know better.

“They move the ball so effortlessly,” Pistons coach Lawrence Frank said. “They have great trust in each other. The way that ball moves from one player to the next is very, very impressive. And, defensively, they’ve always been top-shelf. They combine great athleticism, effort, technique and commitment. You know what they’re going to do and it doesn’t matter because they put great effort and intensity into it. The next step that they’ve taken is they’ve got great trust in each other.” (more…)

These Heat Not Feeling Any Heat At All

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.

Heat upcoming schedule
Day Date Loc. Opponent Time (ET) TV
Mon. 3/25 @ Orlando 7 p.m. ESPN
Wed. 3/27 @ Chicago 8 p.m. ESPN
Fri. 3/29 @ New Orleans 8 p.m. League Pass
Sun. 3/31 @ San Antonio 7 p.m. NBA TV
Tue. 4/2 vs. New York 8 p.m. TNT
Fri. 4/5 @ Charlotte 7 p.m. League Pass
Sat. 4/6 vs. Philadelphia 7:30 p.m. League Pass

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.

“We’re just playing the games on our schedule, honestly,” James said. “We’re a team that plays games at a higher level. We don’t really take too many possessions off and we don’t really coast too much. I think the whole NBA season is taxing, whether you are winning or losing. It’s a long season and it’s very tiring. There are times when you feel like you don’t have much left, especially this month when we have 18 games.”

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.”