NBA: How the Miami Heat are close to the Playoffs

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Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra led his team to a 21-5 record since January 14.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — After absorbing a loss to the Milwaukee Bucks at the end of a west coast road trip in the middle of January, it was understandable if you thought that the then-11-30 Miami Heat were set to tank for the rest of the season.

Clearly a shell of the championship contending side, the Heat looked like they would be contending for a top-3 pick in the upcoming draft.

But my oh my, how things have changed.

After the loss to the Bucks, the South Beach ball club upset the surging Houston Rockets and went on an improbable 13-game win streak to propel them back into the hunt for a spot in the playoffs.

Since then Miami have compiled a 21-5 record to lead the league in win percentage since January 14, beating championship contenders Golden State and Cleveland (twice) in the process.

As of writing, they are less than a game behind the current eighth seeded Bucks in the East.

Despite their recent setback against the Pacers, Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra was in high spirits when he sat down to talk to Philippine media.

After all, his former assistant coach, now head coach of the Grizzlies, David Fizdale did him a favor after Memphis tacked a loss on Milwaukee to keep Miami within touching distance.

According to the Filipino-American coach, the Heat’s sizzling second half of the season is a result to commitment to the franchise’s way of doing things.

“We’ve had to deal with a lot of adversity, but this group has been really committed,” Spoelstra said. “Even when we’re 11 and 30, I liked the progress that the team was making.”

“I like the approach and the attitude, nobody was feeling sorry for ourselves and we just continued to work at it,” he added.

Spoelstra admitted that he wasn’t sure if they saw the team’s 21-5 run coming and that they were committed to trying to put themselves in the best position to do well in the second half of the season.

In fact, he couldn’t tell you at what point did things start to click for the Heat this season.

“There hasn’t been an a-ha moment with this team, there hasn’t been a moment where we felt like okay, it changed today,” he said. “It has been very slow, incremental improvement. And that has been a joy to be a part of.”

Pushing for the playoffs

The Heat have 15 games remaining in the regular season, and could very well snatch the eighth seed and possibly set up a seven-game series against a certain LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Heat fans will undoubtedly be constantly checking the results of their fellow playoffs contenders, such as the Bucks and the Bulls.

But it is that type of thinking that the two-time championship winning coach wants to avoid.

“I think the temptation right now would be to obsess about the standings, and obsess about what other teams are doing,” Spoelstra said. “Our process has to remain the same. We have to focus on us, continuing to play our brand of basketball.”

That brand of basketball has been deadly, and it isn’t all just from what comes from Waiters Island late in games.

 

Since January 14, the Heat posted the 6th and 3rd best offensive and defensive ratings in the league, respectively.

Only the Washington Wizards have posted more wins than Miami in that same stretch, but they weren’t a below .500 team when they did that.

The Heat are one of the hottest teams in the league, and if they can keep things rolling they could secure post-season action.

Ironically, according to Spoelstra, taking an eye off the playoff berth may be the best way to do that.

“We have to focus on those things right now, and not the end goal of the playoffs, It will take care of itself,” he added. “I know it’s a cliché, but it will if we just continue to focus on playing our best brand of basketball.”