CHICAGO | The Miami Heat are running away with the Eastern Conference's No. 1 playoff seed, but no one is handing out cigars and party hats.
This is not your Roman Army pilaging the countryside. Not yet.
The defending NBA champions flew into Chicago on Thursday with some concerns of their own.
They were 0-5 against the three teams chasing them — the Pacers, Bulls and New York Knicks. And their lack of "bigs" is the reason they are negative-120 in offensive rebounds.
That's a ton of put-back attempts by the other guys.
"We can still try to find ways to get better," said Chicagoan Dwyane Wade, now in his 10th season. "When you're winning games, a lot of things get overlooked. Once you lose one or two games, you can kinda tune in on what you need.
"We have to continue to understand what it takes to win games and a team like Chicago is a great measuring stick because they play the game hard, they play the game physical. You play teams like that in the playoffs, you gotta bring it."
Miami's lack of size is interesting because no one in the organization is wringing their hands over it. Earlier Thursday, the Heat traded 6-foot-11, 285-pound Dexter Pittman to Memphis for added "roster flexibility," according to coach Erik Spoelstra.
That left 6-10 Chris Andersen with a sore foot and 6-11 All-Star Chris Bosh, who's more of a scorer than a banger.
In the Bulls' seven-point win at Miami in January, they punished the Heat 48-28 on the glass, including 19-4 at the offensive end. Carlos Boozer had his way inside, if you can believe that.
"Yeah, we're not blessed with a lot of bigs, but we're blessed with a lot of other things," Wade said before Thursday's rematch. "We're not as big as Chicago or certain teams, but that's fine. We won a championship without that. We've won games without that.
"So we don't focus on that. We find other ways to control the game."
That would be creating turnovers, sprinting upcourt in four giant strides or less, then dumping off to LeBron James or Wade and watch them go airborne for highlight dunk after highlight dunk.
"There are games where we get out-rebounded pretty bad but that doesn't mean just because you have a big, you're not gonna get out-rebounded," Wade said.
Think Vladimir Radmanovic.
When James and Bosh hooked up with Wade two seasons ago, there was a definite anti-Heat sentiment among NBA fans everywhere but in Miami. Wade said his teammates are finally beginning to feel some love.
"I think they respect the way we play," he said. "I'm sure there's certain fans who don't like the Heat. I'm sure there's certain fans who don't like the Bulls or the Lakers. That's the way of the world.
"But overall, I think they respect the way we treat this game. We feel we play it the right way. We don't get booed as much when we go on the road."
The unbeatable Roman Army could never say that.
This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org