Heat’s 3-point shooting crucial during streak

ORLANDO, Fla. — This run at history has revealed many things about the Miami Heat: their efficiency, their versatility, their brutal ability to sink an opponent both inside and outside the arc.

The latest evidence of this dual attack came Monday night at Amway Center, during a 108-94 thumping of the Orlando Magic to claim their 27th consecutive victory, when Miami’s sharpshooters enjoyed open range on a scrambling Magic defense. The final total — 15 of 28 from 3-point range, including a game-high four from guards Ray Allen and Mario Chalmers — was a large reason why a closer-than-expected score late in the third quarter turned into a rout by midway through the fourth.

Want consistency? The Heat have won 36 consecutive games when they make at least 10 3-point field goals in a single game, dating to March 30, 2011.

Want closure? The Heat went 6 of 10 from 3-point range in the fourth quarter Monday, shredding the Magic’s hope of springing the upset.

Want reason to worry, if you’re a future Heat opponent in this historic chase? Coach Erik Spoelstra says the 3-point success has become a habit, one that’s contagious once the tries begin to fall.  

“That was the one part of our offense that was fluid, getting to our spacing and then guys finding the shooters and making one more pass,” he said. “Our shooters are ignitable. When they make a couple in a row, and the next guy feels he’s hot, even if he hasn’t shot it.”

This is something the Heat have done all season, of course. Entering Monday, they stood second in the league in 3-point percentage at .389, only trailing the Golden State Warriors’ .402. They have made at least 10 3-pointers 23 times this season, a figure that trails only the 1996-97 team’s 25 for the most in a single season in franchise history.

Late Monday, as a large crowd gathered near the Heat locker room in what has become a traveling spectacle in the March Toward 33, Spoelstra stood in a corridor and praised Allen for being the “epitome” of the “feel hot and let loose” approach to long-distance shooting. It’s easy to see why the coach values such an asset: Allen’s veteran confidence — he finished 4 of 6 from 3-point range and had 12 points — translates to the rest of the floor. Spoelstra once labored to scheme ways to slow Allen, when the player was part of the Boston Celtics. Now, a former threat is a key reason why this historic run is possible.

“We’re playing so unselfish,” said Chalmers, who went 4 of 5 from 3-point range and had 17 points. “We know we can’t do one thing without one another. We are all working together, moving the ball.”

That movement includes LeBron James. Of James’ team-high 11 assists Monday, eight went to Miami players for 3-pointers. Consider this: If you factor in his team-high 24 points, he contributed to 54 of the Heat’s overall point total.

So opponents beware. As James, forward Udonis Haslem (six points) and center Chris Bosh (12) work inside, there’s a threat from the outside as well. Pick the path: Guard against power in the paint or elite touch from a distance.

“That’s the best part for me,” said James, who went 9 of 16 from the field. “The success of my teammates is what motivates me every night. I can score. I can rebound. I can defend. For me, passing the ball and seeing my teammates score is what it’s all about for me.”

It’s also about this: Adding another dynamic to Miami’s deep offensive approach. Certainly, Orlando threatened. With 2:59 left in the third quarter, Magic guard Jameer Nelson swished a 3-pointer to tie the score at 68. For a moment, and for a moment only, anything seemed possible.

But this was Miami, a team teasing history. And this was Orlando, an Eastern Conference also-ran searching to find its way under first-year coach Jacque Vaughn. The Heat’s six 3-pointers in the fourth quarter — the Magic had one — helped erase all doubt.

“It opens up everything else,” said Heat guard Mike Miller, who had seven points after starting in place of Dwyane Wade, who sat out for a second consecutive game because of soreness in his right knee. “When we’re making 3s, it makes their job easy and vice versa. It’s the way things work.”

Plenty has worked for Miami of late: Its game inside, its threat from a distance. Want reason to believe in this historic chase? Continue to watch.   

You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at aastleford@gmail.com.