Center Chris Bosh said before last season his Miami Heat were the best team in the NBA. Then they proved it by winning the NBA title.
Now, the Heat are nothing more than an average team on the road, sporting a 7-6 record. But Bosh said it won’t end up that way.
“We will be better on the road and it will work out and we’ll have one of the best records when all is said and done,’’ Bosh vowed.
For now, the Heat (22-8), who have the fourth-best overall mark, are tied for the NBA’s eighth-best road record. They’re fortunate it’s not worse, having needed to fight back from a four-point deficit late in regulation last Monday to beat a depleted Orlando outfit 112-110 in overtime.
Of the NBA’s 30 teams, only Chicago and New Orleans have better winning percentages on the road than at home. Still, few teams are so much better at home than on the road as the Heat, who are 15-2 at AmericanAirlines.
At home, the Heat have outscored foes by an average of 10.2 points per game. On the road, they’ve been outscored by an average of 1.9 points, including having lost their six games by an average of 13.0 points.
“We need to take some steps forward in terms of developing our resolve and road toughness,” coach Erik Spoelstra said last Saturday after his Heat fell apart in the fourth quarter and lost at Milwaukee. “We’re not quite there yet. We’re tough at home, have that toughness at home. We don’t have it on the road.’’
But there soon will be time to find it. After playing host to Chicago on Friday and Washington on Sunday, the Heat head out on a six-game trip.
On paper, going to Indiana, Portland, Sacramento, Utah, Golden State and the Los Angeles Lakers might be exceedingly brutal. There is just one back-to-back on the trip.
The Heat have lost at downtrodden Washington and Detroit. So they can lose to anybody on the road.
“We just got to figure it out,’’ Heat forward LeBron James said. “We just got to learn how to win on the road again. We were a good road team last year, but we have to find a way to do it.’’
The Heat actually weren’t that great on the road last season, going 18-15 as opposed to 28-5 at home. They were 5-5 on the road in the playoffs, but were able to win when it was necessary.
Trailing 2-1 in an Eastern Conference semifinal, the Heat won at Indiana to avoid falling into a huge hole. They avoided elimination with a win at Boston in the East final after being down 3-2. They won Game 2 of the NBA Finals at Oklahoma City to tie the series 1-1, setting the stage for three consecutive home wins.
What’s been alarming this season is the margin of defeat in some of Miami’s road loses. The Heat have been walloped 104-84 at New York, 104-86 at Memphis and 109-99 at Detroit. They were outscored 35-14 in the fourth quarter at Milwaukee.
“We just got to play better. Obviously, you got to play better on the road (to win),’’ guard Dwyane Wade said. “You got to take care of the ball, which we haven’t done a good job of. And you got to rebound the ball on the road. We haven’t done those two things, so that’s why we don’t have the record we should have.’’
But the opportunity soon will be there to turn it around. When it’s wheels up next week for Miami’s plane, the Heat will begin a stretch in which they have 10 of 12 games on the road.
“We’ll have plenty of time to improve,’’ Spoelstra said lightheartedly.
If Bosh’s latest boast comes to fruition, Spoelstra won’t have too much to worry about.
Who’s Hot: When it comes to awards, nobody has been hotter lately than James. The reigning NBA MVP recently has been named Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year and USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year. He’s won both of this season’s NBA Eastern Conference Player of the Month awards and been honored three times for Player of the Week. Oh, by the way, James enters Friday having scored 20 or more points in a career-best 51 consecutive games, including playoff performances.
Who’s Not: Bosh on the boards. He raised hopes yet again by pulling down 16 rebounds last Saturday against the Bucks. But Bosh has followed that up with back-to-back outings in which he’s grabbed just four rebounds. Bosh was outrebounded last Monday 29-4 by Orlando center Nikola Vucevic. At least Bosh, averaging 7.7 boards for the season, outscored Vucevic 22-20 and rescued the Heat by scoring two key buckets in the final 1:02 of regulation.
1. James is not exactly Daryl Morey in high tops. Morey is Houston’s numbers-obsessed general manager. “I just think stats get a little crazy sometimes,’’ James said when told he leads the NBA in assists that result in corner 3-pointers. Asked to identify the craziest one he’s ever heard, James thought for a few seconds. “I’ve seen like defensive rebounding percentages,’’ he said. “I’ve seen turnover percentages. I don’t know. There’s some crazy stuff out there I’ve never seen before.’’ Besides wins, James claims the only stat he pays close attention to is turnovers. So James obviously is happy that his 2.9 average this season is on pace to be a career low.
2. Apparently, being a religion major at Duke is paying off for Heat forward Shane Battier. He had missed seven consecutive shots, five of them 3-pointers, in a three-game span before James passed him the ball in the right corner late in Wednesday’s game against Dallas. Battier drilled that 3 for a 103-101 lead with 14.5 seconds left in what would be a 119-109 overtime win. Battier also made a 3-pointer in the extra period. “I channeled my Buddhist teachings from college,” Battier said about coming back from his misses, which included clanging three 3-pointers in a row earlier against the Mavericks. “I was completely detached. I was so (ticked) off from missing shots. Finally, I said, ‘I don’t care. I’m just going to shoot it.”’
3. Wade claims the media doesn’t help the Heat in the quest to defend their NBA title. “It’s created so much with this team that obviously it makes guys want to beat us even more than they did in 2006 after we had won the championship,’’ Wade said in comparing what Miami is going through in defending a title now as opposed to their previous title. Then again, less media scrutiny didn’t exactly help the Heat in 2006-07 after they had won the title. They stumbled to a 44-38 regular-season mark and were swept by the Bulls 4-0 in the first round on of the playoffs.
Quotes of the Week
“We just have to try to play with a little bit more sense of urgency.’’
— James, on the Heat having to come from behind in the final minute of back-to-back games to force overtime in games they eventually won over losing teams Orlando and Dallas.
“We’re not a very good offensive rebounding team. We haven’t been a great defensive rebounding team.”
— Spoelstra, on the board woes which have plagued the Heat all season, including being hammered 50-33 Monday by Orlando.
“I hope Dwyane’s not upset … It wasn’t personal. I didn’t say the guy was a bum and couldn’t play, I said he doesn’t look the same to me from an explosive standpoint. It’s either wear or tear or the injuries are taking their toll on him.’’
— Hall of Famer and TV analyst Charles Barkley, speaking to Miami station WMSF-FM, about having criticized Wade recently on TNT for his play.
7: Consecutive games Heat forward Rashard Lewis has not played because of a coach’s decision. Lewis has not had a stretch like this since he played in just 20 of 50 games when he was a Seattle rookie during the lockout season of 1998-99.
622: Record for career games played with the Heat, shared by Wade and forward Udonis Haslem. The two have held and traded the record at times during a season in which Wade has missed four games and Haslem two.
2: Non-guaranteed contracts the Heat have heading into next Thursday’s deadline when all NBA contracts become guaranteed for the season. The Heat likely will decide before they leave Monday on a six-game trip whether to waive guard Terrel Harris and/or center Joel Harrellson. It’s unlikely both will stick around considering the Heat likely will want to keep a roster spot open, perhaps to pick up a big man.
Friday’s game against Chicago isn’t the marquee event of the previous two seasons, when the Heat and Bulls were the top two teams in the East. Still, the Bulls figure to be fired up against a team they consider a rival. The Heat on Sunday will have to guard against looking past Washington and toward the six-game trip that starts Tuesday at Indiana. Then again, the Heat, no doubt, will continue to remember their lowest moment of the season, a 105-101 loss at Washington on Dec. 4.
Tower of Power?
They are at home, where the Heat play much better. But if Miami, which currently holds down the No. 1 seed in the East, has home-court advantage during the playoffs, road woes will be less of a concern.