MIAMI – You could hear Dwyane Wade‘s voice bellowing through the Miami Heat locker room in the final seconds.
“Ballgame,” he yelled as the final seconds ticked off the clock.
That was hours before Wade’s Miami Heat had finished off the Charlotte Bobcats for their 26th straight win. That yelling came from the Heat training room, where Wade was parked for treatment on the sore right knee that kept him out of the Heat’s 109-77 demolition of the lowly Charlotte Bobcats, who had the unenviable task of bringing the worst record in the NBA to AmericanAirlines Arena Sunday night for their matchup against the team with the best record in the league.
Wade’s college coach, Tom Crean, and his Indiana Hoosiers needed all the energy they could get, even from afar, to get past Temple and clinch their Sweet Sixteen berth in the NCAA Tournament.
The Heat obviously didn’t miss a beat without Wade in the lineup, the extent of his work here Sunday night included him subbing for Fox Sports Florida’s Sun Sports courtside analyst Jason Jackson and interviewing James on the court seconds after the game ended.
When asked how Wade compared to Jackson as an interviewer, James was brutally honest in his assessment.
“He’s got a lot of work to do,” James said before cracking a smile. “Jack is one of the best, so he shouldn’t feel bad. D-Wade did a good job, though. He looked good, too.”
Just as they have every game since Feb. 3, the Heat found just the right formula to brush the Bobcats aside. And therein lies the beauty of what’s going on with this team. No matter the circumstance or situation, they continue to handle their business by any means necessary.
“Our guys get it,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “They get when it’s time to go.”
They also know when it’s time to let go. All the fun that comes along with the streak is a product of a team that’s more comfortable in its own skin than they have been since they were assembled.
“We’re having a blast,” Chris Bosh said after celebrating his 29th birthday with win No. 26 in the streak. “Best team I’ve ever been on. Best team I’ve ever been on. People like to say it, but we always have fun. And we work hard but we played hard, too. That’s something when it’s always hard to find that balance. It’s just something we do a fantastic job of here is just knowing that we have a chance to win. That’s huge. But having a good time at the same time, it’s important. Those are the things we’ll remember.”
The challenge of maintaining this streak grows considerably tougher with the last extended road trip of the Heat’s regular season. They’ve run the gauntlet during the course of the streak. Seventeen different teams have tried to solve the Heat during this run and 17 have failed. The Lakers’ record 33-game streak looks as attainable as ever with the Heat braced for a four-game road trip that kicks off Monday in Orlando and makes stop in Chicago (Wednesday), New Orleans (Friday) and San Antonio (Sunday).
“Well, I’d rather be home,” Bosh said. “We just got back. But it’s okay. We have to continue to play well on the road. We have some huge challenges ahead of us. A lot of places where you can’t just come in and mosey in and think you’re going to win the game. We’re playing a Orlando team that has pushed us to the brink twice. New Orleans beat Memphis the other night. Chicago is Chicago and San Antonio is San Antonio. We have our work ahead of us. But it’s like I’ve always said, we can’t get too ahead of ourselves. We take care of our business one game at a time.”
That becomes increasingly difficult with all of the outside attention paid to the streak in the places the Heat will visit over the course of the next seven days. The Heat already have the burden of being the reigning NBA champions and now they show up with streak, cranking up the intensity of each game even more.
“Yeah, that’s all they hear about even when they are not playing us,” Bosh said. “It’s ‘What do you think about the streak?’ First they get pissed and then when they finally play us it’s, ‘hey, let’s knocks these guys off.’ That gives them extra incentive. But I think it’s a healthy exercise for us because we are playing with something to lose. And that’s how it is every night in the playoffs, so we’ll have a good rhythm when we get there.”
Only time will tell if they get there, to the postseason, with the streak intact. As crazy as it sounds, it’s not outside the realm of possibility for a team that continues to win at a record-setting pace.