The Miami Heat were ready to focus on other goals not long after ending one of the longest win streaks in NBA history.
The Heat can achieve one of those, clinching the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, by ending a lengthy road losing streak to the New Orleans Hornets on Friday night.
Miami (56-15) had its run of 27 consecutive wins snapped with a 101-97 defeat in Chicago on Wednesday but hardly seemed downtrodden. The Heat came closer than any other team to matching the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers’ NBA-record 33-game run.
“It was a heck of an experience for all of us to have together. We took a moment to acknowledge it (after the game) and acknowledge each other, but it was never about the streak. We have a bigger goal,” coach Erik Spoelstra said.
The Heat can put themselves in a stronger position for another championship run with a victory against lowly New Orleans (25-47) or a New York loss to visiting Charlotte on Friday. Miami finished second in the East last season before capturing the second title in franchise history, but is currently two games ahead of San Antonio for the NBA’s best record.
“The streak wasn’t important to us. What’s important to us is winning the title. That’s what we work on. That’s what we’re here for,” center Chris Bosh said.
The Heat have earned No. 1 seeds twice in their history, in the 1998-99 lockout-shortened season and in 2004-05. They didn’t win an NBA title either time, and were eliminated by New York in the first round in 1999.
Before any postseason concerns, Miami will first try to end a six-game road losing streak to the Hornets. The first two losses in that skid occurred in Oklahoma City.
The Heat, though, haven’t visited New Orleans since Nov. 5, 2010, and have won the past three games in the series by an average of 14 points. They shot 58.0 percent in a 106-90 home victory over the Hornets on Dec. 8.
This time, they’ll face a team that had a three-game win streak snapped Wednesday with a 105-91 loss to the visiting Los Angeles Clippers. New Orleans trailed by two points entering the fourth quarter but was outscored 26-14 in those final 12 minutes.
The Hornets didn’t help themselves by missing 10 of 14 3-point attempts and giving up 20 points off 12 turnovers. The injury-plagued Eric Gordon had a team-best 24 points – three shy of matching his season high.
“We kind of beat ourselves. We really didn’t move the ball very well and we took tough shots,” forward Ryan Anderson said. “We didn’t really battle. We just didn’t have it like we had the last couple of games.”
Gordon and No. 1 overall draft pick Anthony Davis sat out the game in Miami. Anderson had 24 points and Robin Lopez scored 20, but only one other player reached double figures.
Dwyane Wade, who returned from a sore right knee Wednesday, had a team-best 26 points for the Heat on 9-of-12 shooting and is averaging 27.9 points on 51.8 percent shooting in his last eight games against New Orleans.