Reporting Tim Kephart
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WASHINGTON (CBSMiami) – When the final horn sounded Wednesday night, the Miami Heat not only knocked off the Washington Wizards; the team also set a franchise-record for wins in a season, clinched the top spot in the NBA playoffs and secured home-court through the NBA Finals.
Oh, and the Heat pulled all that off with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and Udonis Haslem sitting on the sidelines.
“We’ve had an amazing year,” Heat forward Shane Battier told reporters in Washington. “We’ve set a lot of records and we’ve had a lot of story lines the whole year. Hopefully our best story line is still ahead of us. That’s what we’re saving the high-fives for.”
Still, even though many fans may celebrate the accomplishments, the Heat have a singular focus that has driven them since training camp: becoming back-to-back NBA Champions. That’s why even though being the best team in March and April is good, for the Heat it’s all about being the best team in June.
The Heat have set quite a few records this season including a team record 27-game winning streak, LeBron James went multiple games scoring at least 30 points and shooting at least 60 percent, and clinched the division and a playoff berth over a month ago.
“We’re sitting at 62 wins,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “It does mean something for us in that locker room. We haven’t been here before as a franchise. It’s a minor thing. We want to keep the main thing the main thing. But at the same time, it is a nice accomplishment for our franchise and everybody involved.”
And everyone has been involved this season, especially in the past few weeks when Wade, Bosh, and LeBron have all taken games off to rest some minor injuries in anticipation of a deep playoff run. From Ray Allen to Chris Andersen to Rashard Lewis, every player has contributed to getting the Heat here.
Even though the Heat still have four regular season games left, the focus now has turned completely to the first-round matchup that will more than likely be against the Milwaukee Bucks. The home-court advantage could prove crucial for the Heat.
According to the AP’s Tim Reynolds, since LeBron and Bosh landed in Miami, the Heat have gone 20-4 in home postseason games with one of the losses coming against the Dallas Mavericks in Game 6 of the 2011 NBA Finals.
This season, Miami has flat-out dominated inside the confines of the AmericanAirlines Arena. The Heat are 34-4 at home this season, which is second-best in the NBA behind only the Denver Nuggets, who are 36-3 at home in 2013.
Not only that, but the Heat have dominated in games decided by 3 points or less (8-3 overall), games decided by 10 points or more (37-8), when the Heat scores more than 100 points (44-2), when the Heat lead in FG % (54-8) and when Miami has fewer turnovers (45-5).
For a comparison, Miami’s likely first-round opponent Milwaukee is 13-24 in games decided by more than 10 points, 12-30 when the opponent scores more than 100 points, and 16-25 against teams with a winning record.
Miami’s offense ranks fifth in the league, scoring 102.8 points per game and is tops in the league in total shooting percentage at 58.6 percent. Miami’s defense is also ranked in the top 10 with a defensive raing of 100.4 in 2013.
And when it comes to clutch time, the Heat trail only the Denver Nuggets in points scored during the final five minutes of a close game.
Plus, since the beginning of February, no one in the NBA is playing better basketball than the Heat. Miami is 33-2 since a February 1 loss to the Indiana Pacers. Miami’s also won four in a row and six of their last seven games, the lone loss coming to New York.
The next week or so will not be vacation time for Miami, regardless of who’s in uniform for the remaining four games.
First, the training room will be a bustling place, with so many players having so many issues that necessitate at least some form of treatment right now. James is notorious for studying absurd amounts of film and tendencies for his playoff opponents, a process that will begin when someone is locked into the No. 8 spot on the East bracket. And since March 22, the “Big Three” of Wade, Bosh and James have played together only twice.
Then again, this is also the time of year Miami has been waiting for since last year’s NBA Finals ended.
“You can’t be afraid of success,” Spoelstra said. “And we’ve had a target on our back all year and in the playoffs that’s the way it should be coming off of the finals from last year. So we talked about it from the very first day of training camp — this is a different year, a different journey and it’s already shaping up to be that. We had to earn the home court. We’ll have to prove it now when we get there.”
(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)