Pacers latest victim of Heat hit list
MAR 11, 2013 12:11a ET
Well, the Heat hit list is finally complete.
When the Heat beat Indiana 105-91 Sunday night at American Airlines Arena, it marked the first time in their 25-year history they've beaten every other NBA team in the regular season.
Sunday's win in the last regular-season meeting between the teams was particularly satisfying. The Pacers smacked Miami around twice earlier this season, including defeating them 102-89 at home on Feb. 1.
Unless you have been on an extended trip to the Himalayas, you probably know that was the last time the Heat lost a game. Sunday's win extended their team-record winning streak to 18 games.
"It's good because it's a challenge," guard Dwyane Wade, a 10-year Miami veteran, said of now having beaten every team. "This team lives for challenges. So the challenge was, for us, every team that beat us was when we get an opportunity to get a win back."
Over the past three weeks, the Heat have gotten some Bronson-like revenge. They've beaten Chicago, Memphis and New York, all teams they hadn't defeated before.
Center Chris Bosh said dates against the Knicks and Pacers were "circled" on Miami's calendar since those teams each had been 2-0 against the Heat. But one thinks the game against the Pacers was in bolder ink considering they had outmustled the Heat in previous games and also had an altercation-marred, tough playoff series with them last spring.
"We had it circled (because) we can't wait to compete," said Bosh, whose Heat also lost 87-77 Jan. 8 at Indiana. "But now that it's over, it doesn't make or break anything."
The Heat (47-14) talked tough before the game against the Pacers (39-24), but not so much afterward. After all, there was no need to offer any possible bulletin-board material after Sunday's surprisingly easy dissection.
Miami star LeBron James had a season-low 13 points, but the Heat still were in command the entire night thanks to 26 points from point guard Mario Chalmers, 24 from Bosh and 23 from Wade. Wade also had six steals and played tremendous defense on All-Star forward Paul George, who had just 10 points on 2-of-11 shooting.
"We came out kind of flat," said George, who admitted that Wade guarding him instead of James "threw us off a bit."
Overall, the Pacers didn't know what hit them. They saw an entirely different Miami outfit than the one that showed up at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Feb. 1 and bowed meekly.
"It's a lot better," Wade said of how his team is playing since that loss. "We wanted to go into Indiana and get that win and after (the loss), we refocused on what we needed to do … It was kind of a wake-open moment for us."
OK, so the Heat still do fall asleep at times, having barely beaten weaklings Cleveland, Sacramento and Orlando during their streak. But when it comes to facing top teams, they've had impressive wins during the stretch over the likes of Oklahoma City, the Los Angeles Clippers and Lakers (hey, the Lakers have been playing well lately), New York, Memphis, Chicago, Atlanta, Houston and now Indiana.
The Heat on Sunday passed the Los Angeles Clippers for the longest winning streak in the NBA this season and now are tied for the seventh-longest one in NBA history. They're two wins away from being just the fifth team in league history to win 20 or more in a row.
James, who is a student of basketball history, looks at the streak in two ways. He doesn't deny the Heat "should be happy and excited" about what they've been able to accomplish. But that doesn't mean they're spending a lot of time talking in the locker room about the streak.
"Because it's not our goal,'' James said of why that is. "Our goal isn't to win games consecutively. Our goal is to win championships. But we understand our goal is to get better each and every game and to continue to improve."
James wasn't happy with what happened the last time the Heat faced the Pacers. So count him as being excited at how much his team has improved since then.
"That’s what we we wanted to do," said James. "We wanted to improve on that Feb. 1 game where we didn’t play well. So that’s our goal each and every game, no matter who the opponent is, to try to continue to get better."
After the previous loss to the Pacers, James began to take matters more into his own hands. He reeled off an NBA record of six straight games scoring 30 or more points while shooting 60 percent or better.
James has slightly returned to earth since then, but the Heat are still winning. One reason is because the play of his supporting cast really has stepped up.
On Sunday, Chalmers shot 7 of 9, including 5 of 6 from 3-point range. Bosh also blocked three shots. And Wade, saying James thought he would be "engaged early" by guarding George, had an impressive all-around game.
"We didn't compete from the opening tip," said forward David West, who scored a team-high 24 points and was one of the few Pacers to not have a sub-par night. "I just don't think we brought enough competitive fire ... I just thought we didn't respond to the challenge."
But West and his teammates ran into a different Miami team than what they saw earlier this season. Just ask guys on any of the other teams that have been on the Heat hit list.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson