MIAMI There was the 27-game sizzle at midseason, more than two months of nothing but victories. And you still have to go back to that rough patch Jan. 8 in Indiana and Jan. 10 in Portland, Ore., to find the last time the Miami Heat lost consecutive games.
So, no, there wasn't panic Friday coming off Thursday's 92-88 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in the opening game of the NBA Finals.
But there is a new definition of hot in the NBA, and it can be found on the opposite side of the Finals ledger, with the Spurs now quietly on a seven-game winning streak, their longest since early February.
"We are playing our best basketball of the season so far," forward Tim Duncan said a day after going for 20 points and 14 rebounds in Game 1 of the best-of-seven series that continues Sunday at AmericanAirlines Arena. "Just getting into that rhythm, we're healthy, we've got all our pieces together. And I think everybody understands the importance of the situation, the position that we're in.
"Guys are definitely locked in."
Then there is the Heat. Chris Bosh looks locked out amid his shooting slump, Shane Battier was shut out of the scoring column in Game 1, and both Dwyane Wade and LeBron James spoke of fatigue after Thursday's loss.
The Heat's reality, in the wake of its seven-game series against the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference finals, is it is 4-4 in its last eight games, the type of sustained mediocrity not endured by Erik Spoelstra's team since mid-January.
"I think that we've had some games where we've played unbelievable basketball, and I think we've had games where we haven't," Wade said of these past two weeks. "We would love to be a little more consistent with it. But you have to give credit to other teams of taking certain things away.
"But I think we've always done a good job of, once they do that, of coming back and making adjustments we need to, as the good teams do."
That offered another contrast between the teams Friday, amid a two-day break.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich told his players to get their minds away from the game.
"Coach Pop believes a lot in mental rest," San Antonio guard Tony Parker said. "He just doesn't want us to watch basketball today. He did that plenty of times. It's nothing new for us."
For the Heat, there was extensive video study.
"We watched an hour of film, an hour and a half of film," James said. "We know where we can get better and be better in Game 2."
Although now playing from behind, the Heat still has some numbers in its favor. Miami has won the next four games in each of the previous three playoff series over the past three seasons when it has lost the series opener. In addition, since James, Wade and Bosh came together in the 2010 offseason, the Heat has a 5-1 series record after falling behind in a playoff series, the lone loss coming when the Dallas Mavericks beat Miami in the deciding Game 6 in the 2011 NBA Finals.
The question is whether the Heat has the legs for a similar comeback this time around, having had to compensate for slumps by Wade and Bosh in recent games, and now having to overcome Battier's struggles.
At the start of Thursday's fourth quarter, James made the rare request for a breather. Then, during Thursday's postgame media session, Wade spoke of a fatigue carryover from the Pacers series.
Spoelstra didn't want to hear any of it Friday.
"There's no excuse at this point of the year," he said. "We're mentally preparing for a long series. This is the final push, and regardless of how we've gotten here, we just have to be ready for whatever it takes."