Reporting Tim Kephart
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Miami Heat were already playing the best basketball in the NBA coming into Sunday’s highly anticipated matchup with the Indiana Pacers. With a blow out win over Indiana, 105-91, Miami sent the rest of the NBA a simple message, who’s next?
The Heat has won 18 straight games and is all alone at the top of the Eastern Conference, has already wrapped up a playoff spot, and could wrap up the number one seed in the Eastern Conference as early as the end of the month.
The Heat’s 18-game winning streak is the seventh-longest in league history, but it’s not the focus of the team to keep that streak going.
“It’s not our goal,” said Miami Heat star LeBron James. “Our goal isn’t to win games consecutive. Our goal is to win a championship. Right now, our goal is to get better each and every game, to continue to improve. Our goal is to win a championship and not take any shortcuts in that process.”
Miami will look to extend the streak Tuesday against the Atlanta Hawks, who have already lost three times to the Heat this season. The next game will see the Heat head to Philadelphia to face a 76ers team that hasn’t beaten Miami in the last 13-straight regular season meetings.
“You don’t want to take a team like this for granted,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We’ve talked about this with our group for the last few days. It’s a special group. It’s a special opportunity.”
Sunday’s win was significant for many reasons, namely that the Pacers are the closest thing the Heat have to a nemesis these days in the East, that they were 2-0 against Miami this season and that they were the last team to beat the defending champions way back on Feb. 1.
In the five-plus weeks since, all the Heat have done is take what was a close race in the East and make it a total runaway, assume the top spot in the NBA standings and become the first team to clinch a playoff spot — not that getting one was ever, ever in doubt.
So how, Wade was asked, will the Heat not get bored when the games down the stretch of the regular season inevitably become less-than-significant in terms of the East playoff race?
“Keep showing up at the gym,” Wade said. “We’re a focused team. We’re a veteran team. We have a goal. The biggest thing for us is to come in and continue to go through this process.”
The numbers during this 18-game streak are staggering.
James is averaging 27.2 points on 60 percent shooting. Wade is averaging 24.3 points on 55 percent shooting. Chris Bosh is at 16.6 points on 54 percent shooting.
And they haven’t been doing it alone, either. Some nights, it’s Shane Battier hitting big shots to be the difference-maker. Sometimes, it’s Allen, who seems to be hitting his stride again. On Sunday, it was Mario Chalmers, who scored 26 points on only nine shots to help carry the Heat past the Pacers.
James will likely be the NBA’s MVP again, but he’s hardly had to be the lone star for the Heat.
“I know you can’t win an Oscar unless everybody does their job,” Wade said.
“I understand the history of the game,” James said. “We should be happy and excited about the opportunity right now.”
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