Heat keep winning while making fans nervous
MIAMI — LeBron James is on quite a roll these days. He said he even picked Florida Gulf Coast to upset Georgetown on his NCAA tournament bracket.
So why should anyone get too worried when James and his Miami Heat fall behind by double digits these days?
Well, they still do.
For the third straight game, the Heat on Friday fell behind by more than 10 points. But once again they survived, fighting back from 11 down in the second quarter to defeat downtrodden Detroit, 103-89, at AmericanAirlines Arena and extend their winning streak to 25 games.
The week had started with the Heat on Monday coming back from 17 points, including 13 with 8 minutes remaining, to win, 105-103, at Boston. Then on Wednesday at Cleveland, they shoveled out of a 27-point hole midway through the third quarter to win, 98-95.
“After the Cleveland game, I got a few texts from a lot of my family members saying this is too much for us to handle, so please stop it,’’ James said after scoring a game-high 29 points against the Pistons.
James is hardly the only one these days hearing from Heat fans about fingernails being chewed to the quick and about possible health problems.
“I read Twitter,’’ said Miami guard Dwyane Wade, who added 19 points. “So people at home keep telling me, ‘Stop giving me heart attacks.’ But I think it’s great for the game. Keep it entertaining. Keep people watching. Keep people in the stadium. … Everybody wants us to win by 30 every night. Sorry, but it’s not possible.’’
The Heat these days seem to be toying with their fans as their streak, the second-longest in NBA history, approaches the Los Angeles Lakers’ record 33-gamer in 1971-72. During their run, the Heat now have come back from 11 points or more six times. They also fought back from 14 points down Feb. 12 against Portland, 11 on Feb. 23 at Atlanta and 16 on March 3 at New York.
The Heat also have trailed at halftime in nine games during the streak, including Friday’s.
Ed and Sandy Battier, parents of Heat forward Shane Battier, are certainly enjoying seeing their son doing all this winning. But lately there have been some drawbacks.
“My parents are great fans, but they’re more emotional than I am,’’ Battier said. “I tell them, ‘Sorry, we’re working on playing better so you don’t have to (go through) that.’ … It’s not a very safe way to survive in this league (falling behind by double digits). We don’t want to keep doing this. We’ve proven we have the ability to (come back), but let’s try to work on the other end and protect leads.’’
Overcoming adversity, though, seems to be the Heat way. They became the first championship team last season to have fallen behind in three series.
At least Friday didn’t cause nearly as much mass panic for Heat fans as their two previous games. Miami (54-14) fell behind 48-37 with 4 minutes left in the first half before getting the deficit down to 54-51 at intermission.
The Pistons (23-47), who have lost 10 straight, did lead 59-52 with 9 minutes remaining in the third quarter. But the Heat finished off matters by outscoring them 51-30 the rest of the game.
Falling behind early with regularity is driving Heat coach Erik Spoelstra bonkers. But maybe there is at least one benefit to it.
Perhaps it’s keeping the Heat humble. If they were blowing teams out every night by 30, they might be too cocky once the playoffs start.
“We don’t get caught up in things like saying that we’re untouchable,’’ James said. “We know we can be beaten by anybody any night if we don’t come in with (the right) mindset. … We don’t want to dig ourselves a hole. We hate it. But you got to beat us playing 48 minutes.’’
It’s a good thing for Miami that NBA games are 48 minutes. Had the Heat been playing college-length games of 40 minutes, they would have lost their past two. Had Friday been a high-school length game of 32 minutes, the score would have been tied and the teams needing overtime.
But when it comes to 48-minute games, nobody is better now than the Heat. They’ve moved to within eight games of the Lakers’ epic record.
“It’s never been a goal of mine,’’ James said about breaking it. “I think we’re taking each and every game as its own. … I’m not going to sit here and downplay and act like I don’t know what the record is. I know it’s 33. But we don’t get caught up in saying we got eight games to get it.’’
Miami’s next outing is Sunday at home against Charlotte, which has the worst record in the NBA at 16-52. But these Heat do not discriminate.
They’ve shown the ability to fall behind against anybody anywhere. On Feb. 4 against Charlotte, their second win of the streak, the Heat trailed by three with less than 9 minutes remaining and led by just two with 1 ½ minutes left before winning, 99-94.
It’s no wonder center Chris Bosh hears plenty about his Heat living on the edge.
“(Friends say,) ‘You’re giving me heart attacks. I don’t know if I’m going to have any more fingernails left,’’’ Bosh said.
Bosh can remind them the Heat do have James, who continually bails them out. On Friday, James said, “I really don’t believe in pressure too much.’’
Believe it. He shows it on the court and even when filling out his NCAA tournament bracket.
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