The best stretch in Miami Heat history is over. A team-record seven-game winning streak ended Monday with a 112-104 loss to Boston, but the team hopes to regain momentum quickly.
"We're on such a high roll right now and playing so well and feeling so good about ourselves that we don't want to lose this feeling," center Rony Seikaly said. "We can start it up next game."
Miami, bidding to make the playoffs for the second time in the team's six-year history, has a chance to consolidate its strong position over the next 10 days.
Of the five games during that period, four are at home, and only one is against a certain playoff team: Phoenix on Friday. Beginning with Denver at Miami Arena tonight, the schedule offers a chance to build another winning streak.
"There's no doubt," Seikaly said. "I don't see why not."
After the team's first defeat in more than two weeks, the biggest concern involved the status of reserve guard Bimbo Coles, who dislocated the index finger on his left hand in the first half. He will be out at least two weeks, disrupting coach Kevin Loughery's substitution pattern, which worked so well in recent games.
"We'll miss Bimbo a great deal," guard Brian Shaw said. "He's a sparkplug when he comes in and gives us a lot of energy. He's one of the best defensive players, if not the best, on this team, and he makes things happen for us."
Cole's absence likely will mean more playing time for Harold Miner, who returned recently after missing 15 games with a kneecap injury.
The biggest puzzle about the Heat remains its inconsistent play at Miami Arena, where they're 14-14. On the road they're 18-12, the best record in the Eastern Conference.
Monday's loss, however, had less to do with a Heat letdown than with the Celtics shooting 61 percent.
"They could have beaten anybody," Seikaly said.
Even with the loss, the Heat is 9-2 since the All-Star break. Forward Glen Rice found possible benefits in the defeat.
"Maybe it was a wake-up call," he said. "Maybe we have been a little cocky lately. I think we're going to just get better."
Around the league
Timberwolves: Stanley Jackson was suspended from Tuesday night's game against the Utah Jazz and fined $5,000 for a flagrant foul. Jackson was ejected from Sunday night's game at the Denver Nuggets in the third quarter for fouling Robert Pack. The NBA determined the foul was for "unnecessary and excessive contact." The ejection calls for an additional $250 fine. . . . A group negotiating to buy the team and move it to New Orleans said it also would buy financially ailing Target Center and bring a hockey team to the arena before moving the basketball team.
_ TIMES WIRES