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As streak gets to 19, Heat can't hide they are loving it

Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra directs his team during the first half of their NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake
Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra directs his team during the first half of their NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake

By Simon Evans

MIAMI (Reuters) - The Miami Heat are one win away from becoming just the fourth team in the history of the NBA to enjoy 20 straight victories in a single season and try as they might, they just can't quite hide the fact that it really is great fun beating all comers.

A comfortable 98-81 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday made it win number 19 and after a 'red-eye' overnight flight to Philadelphia, the defending champions will be back in action again, taking on the 76ers for number 20.

For coach Erik Spoelstra, the winning streak is a topic he avoids in his team-talks as he focuses on drilling good habits into the team before the games that really matter - the playoffs.

"I'm not going to bring it up. I haven't brought it up once yet, the streak," he said.

Spoelstra said that even if he reflected on the run of form privately, it would only be to compare it with the feeling of the franchise's worst season back in 2007/08.

"I don't think about it much but if I were to think about it, I would think about the 15 win season and how awful it can be," he said.

The players try their best to keep with Spoelstra's mantra but after the Atlanta game LeBron James eventually conceded, it was something unique worth acknowledging.

"Let's be honest guys, we aren't sitting here and saying this is not something special - this is an unbelievable streak, we are playing great basketball, we are winning in different phases of the game and we are playing different styles," he said.

"I'm not going to say it's not special but we just can't get caught up in it too much and not seize the moment that we are in each and every night," he said.

The moment is one that the Heat players are certainly enjoying - on and off the court.

One can sense it in the Heat locker-room where the banter flies or see it in the madcap 'Harlem Shake' video the team posted online.

"Winning makes it more fun," said Spoelstra. "What comes first though, the winning or the camaraderie? I don't see a lot of camaraderie on losing teams and we have been part of both," he said.

It is Spoelstra's job to maintain the focus and ensure that the message goes out that every quarter of every regular season game is part of the process of getting ready for the business end of the season.

In the locker-room there is an acknowledgement that the bonds they are building in this winning run are rare ones.

"This is a special group of guys and it has been a blast this season, we have been working hard but having fun at the same time," said center Chris Bosh.

"We like coming to work. My dad told me 'you want to like your job, because it sucks when you hate it' - and he was speaking from experience.

"It's nice not only to play basketball but to play with the best team in the world, with the best team-mates in the world.

"It's great, guys are funny, we laugh and joke, of course we take care of business but we like being around each other," he told reporters while being interrupted mid-sentence by a yelling James.

It would make, suggests the team's long-standing leader Dwyane Wade, for a great reality show.

"We are not a team that lets the cameras in often where they can follow us and see this team but if we did, we would have a number one hit show, no doubt about it," he said.

(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

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