Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra summed up the efforts of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in three words: 'Video game numbers,' he said.
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It used to be that it took more than a mere two-game losing streak to create angst in the Miami Heat locker room.
A 9-8 start to the Big Three era in 2010? Sure. Shove-gate? Cry-gate? Sky-is-falling-gate? All led to soul searching over the first two seasons with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh as teammates.
But now that they're defending NBA champions, the expectations are greater, the patience less. So after losing consecutive games by double digits for the first time this season, disturbing performances against the Detroit Pistons and Milwaukee Bucks, there is little doubt when it comes to the prime New Year's resolution:
Greater road resolve.
At 6-6 on the road entering Monday's game against the Orlando Magic, the final stop on this four-game trip, the Heat departed into the frigid night air of Milwaukee on Saturday saying enough is enough.
"I mean, you can feel it," Bosh said of the resolve to avoid the drama of the previous two regular seasons. "It's only two games in a row, but it's just a certain feeling that we haven't had the success on the road early that we've usually had.
"We know that we can play a lot better, and I think it is one of those points where we know we have to fix something."
A pair of abysmal quarters during the snow-covered trip through the Midwest were eye-opening.
Friday in Detroit, the Heat were outscored 41-20 in the second quarter. Saturday in Milwaukee, there was the embarrassment of being humiliated 35-14 in the fourth quarter.
"We'll address the problem, we continue to be honest with ourselves from the coaching staff to the players, and we'll fix it," Bosh said.
Coach Erik Spoelstra said it is a moment his team can seize upon.
"However you get to these points in the season, they can be pivotal points, if they're handled the right way," Spoelstra said. "And if you come out of it the right way, a lot of times these can be breakthrough moments.
"Sometimes you don't know how you get in it, get in a little bit of a funk, and you're not playing the way you're capable of, and even on the court not connected. And that's what the next 48 hours will be about, reconnecting with each other."
With the game in Milwaukee ending a Christmas week run of four games in five nights, Spoelstra gave his team Sunday off in Orlando, to recover and to celebrate James' 28th birthday.
"Often-times it’s not about schemes, Xs and Os," Spoelstra said. "It's just about getting back to the basics, getting into each other, getting into the team and getting into the purity of just winning.
"We need to take some steps forward developing our resolve and road toughness. We're not quite there yet. We have it at home. We have to develop it on the road."
The first of these back-to-back losses came with Wade serving his one-game NBA suspension for his kick to the groin of Ramon Sessions in Wednesday's victory over the Charlotte Bobcats at the start of this four-game trip. Then, Saturday night, the Heat were without power forward Udonis Haslem, who was recovering from a neck injury sustained in Friday's loss in Detroit.
A return to heath and some creative discourse, Bosh said, should be enough.
"We have the mature professionals that we need in order to get it straight," he said.
Two uneven regular seasons during the Big Three era have prepared the Heat for this moment, as has the perseverance that led to last season's championship.
"This is nothing we haven't seen before," James said. "So we've got to figure it out."
Exactly, said Wade.
"It's going to take time," he said. "Every year, we go through this kind of thing. It's a part of the journey. You have to have these moments throughout a season for later in the year, when you have something to pull from.
"As much as we would love to be undefeated on the road, the bigger picture is you have to go through these tough moments, you have to figure it out as a team. So that's what we're doing right now."
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