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MIAMI — Nobody saw it going this way for the Heat. As they hit the home stretch of their race for a playoff spot, they’ve got newly acquired Joe Johnson starting at small forward, Hassan Whiteside coming off the bench and their offense has flipped from methodical to manic.

They are surviving without Chris Bosh, looking more each game like a favorite to claim one of the top four seeds in the Eastern Conference, and the man keeping them on course is Erik Spoelstra. Surely he’d never wish for the adversity Miami has endured the past two seasons, but he embraces the constant challenge of reconfiguring his team.

“I feel very fortunate to be in this profession and doing something I’m passionate about,” Spoelstra said Wednesday afternoon. ‘I feel a responsibility to do the job — whatever’s necessary. The last two years, that’s meant a lot of adapting, but that’s what this job requires.

“We’ve become better coaches the last two years because of all the circumstances we haven’t been able to control. We like where we are right now and we’re focused on getting this group better and getting us prepared to compete at a next-tier level.”

The Heat have a big opportunity to sharpen their game during this soft spot in the schedule. Thursday’s home game against Phoenix (7:30 p.m., Fox Sports Sun) is the third of seven straight against teams behind them in the standings.

Read the full article by Jason Lieser of the PalmBeachPost.com