NBA Beat: Heat shows it's serious in bid for title repeat

Published: Sunday, Mar. 3, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 5C
Last Modified: Thursday, Apr. 18, 2013 - 7:54 pm

The reason for the Miami Heat's surge in February was simple, if you ask guard Dwyane Wade.

"Throwback jerseys did us good," Wade said. "I think we only lost one game in them, in Indiana."

If only it were as simple as a fashion choice.

The Heat is doing what championship contenders usually do at this time of year – up their level of play and get serious.

Don't let Miami's "Harlem Shake" video fool you – the Heat is expected to repeat as NBA champions.

No one is winning more while having fun than Miami, which has won 13 consecutive games. Whether it's a pregame dunk exhibition or piling up victories, there's a lot to smile about on South Beach.

During the streak, the Heat has gone from being tied with New York to a 6 1/2-game lead in the Eastern Conference.

"More than anything, the sense of urgency," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "There's been a greater commitment to our energy and intensity, and our focus has been better. There's not a magic formula."

Spoelstra said Wade is "getting stronger" as the season progresses and the Heat is displaying maturity on offense.

"The way the ball moves now in terms of our execution offensively is night and day from where it used to be two years ago," Spoelstra said. "Guys don't feel like they have to make the play."

The offense runs through Wade and LeBron James, but Spoelstra said the ball is moving with more "freedom" lately.

It helps when your two best players are willing passers. As the Heat has seen, the passing bug can be contagious.

"You see so many more three-, four-, five-pass possessions," Spoelstra said. "Guys are just moving it on to the next one instead of feeling like somebody has to make the play."

The Heat opened March by grinding out a win over Memphis on Friday despite James' poor shooting. Today, Miami visits New York, which has blown out the Heat twice this season.

"I just think that throughout (February) we found a way to get better," Wade said. "We won many different ways, and we just want to continue. This is a time of year where we have to continue to get better because other teams are doing it, too."

Stats watch

The San Antonio Spurs have the league's best record, but that could change now that guard Tony Parker is expected to be sidelined about a month after spraining his left ankle in Friday's win over the Kings.

Without Parker, the Spurs are 7-7 over the last three seasons. In contrast, they've won 77.3 percent of their games with Parker in the lineup over the same span.

Tweets of the Week

"Amnesty THAT" via Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant).

"Nice to know there is at least one team and their players, outside of the Mavs, that listen to everything I say."

"But I do have to give props to @kobebryant for a great tweet. #Welldone."

All three tweets were from Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban (@mcuban) in response to the Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant.

After Cuban suggested in an interview that the Lakers could waive Bryant via the amnesty clause, Bryant put up 38 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists in a win over Dallas last Sunday.

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