MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Dwyane Wade has seen a lot in his 10 years on South Beach. He's won championships and lost them. He's been on top of the basketball world and at the bottom of the heap.
Through it all, he's never been on a 15-game winning streak. Until now.
He's also never won back-to-back titles. With LeBron James leading the way, everything is changing in Miami and anything is possible for the Heat.
Wade had 32 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds, James shrugged off a sore left knee to score 20 points and grab 10 rebounds, and the Heat earned their franchise-record 15th straight victory with a 97-81 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night.
"I've been around for a long time. When you start breaking your own records, you've been around for a while," said Wade, who made 15 of 23 shots. "Hopefully we can continue to win. If we don't, hopefully we can get right back on it. That's what we've done all year. We in a groove. We're playing well and finding ways to win."
They've beaten good teams and bad during this streak, won in nail-biting fashion and breezed through blowouts, played ugly and played beautifully. They haven't lost since Feb. 1 at Indiana and now head home for four straight games to see how far they can take this thing.
"I haven't even addressed it with the team," coach Erik Spoelstra said of the record. "It feels awkward addressing it with you guys. But obviously it's a residual of our group effort and obviously group success. I don't want our guys focusing on the record. I know it's a great thing for our franchise, but we're trying to improve and we can start with that process with a better game on Wednesday."
There was a time when focus appeared to be an issue for James, when he just couldn't seem to muster the inner fortitude and go-for-broke attitude it takes to win at the highest level. That seems so long ago now. He wasn't his usual force of nature self against the undermanned Timberwolves, preferring to let Wade exploit a mismatch with the undersized Luke Ridnour at shooting guard. But he took another step in showing that this year's LeBron is a different player. More focused, more determined, more dedicated to the game than ever before.
He had every reason to sit down in this one, and the runaway favorite for MVP wouldn't have been blamed. The Heat were playing the second game of a road back-to-back, coming off a stirring victory over New York and playing an undermanned opponent that had lost 21 of its last 25 games.
James tweaked his knee in the third quarter against New York on Sunday when he landed awkwardly while chasing down a lob. That didn't stop him from scoring 12 points and swatting Tyson Chandler in the fourth quarter to lead the Heat to their first win of the season over the Knicks, an important victory for the defending champions to assert themselves in the Eastern Conference.
Maybe in the past, James would have chosen rest. But not this year. He's reached a different level, one that no one has been able to match, whether he is completely healthy or not. He knows more is expected of him, and is delivering it every night.
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