"First of all, we will take care of tonight," LeBron James promised, before beginning to answer questions about Saturday's epic matchup. He delivered, too. On a night when Dwyane Wade sat out with a sore knee, James poured in 36 points and led his team to a relatively easy 95-83 win over Phoenix.
Then, almost immediately, the focus shifted to the team's next game in Los Angeles. But while the Heat are looking forward to the challenge of playing the Lakers -- in a game that has all of the requisite hype that we've come to expect from the NBA's marquee Christmas Day event -- they are also making it clear that whatever the result, it will have no more than a single game's impact on the team's regular season.
"There's been a lot of conjecture about it, and what it means to both teams," Miami's head coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We're both in different spots right now. [Our team is] trying to improve; we're trying to get where they have been. We think we're improving, we think since the first day of the season we're one of the most improved teams, and we think we're ready for it.
"In terms of it meaning more than other games, I think it'll be a special opportunity for the guys to play on Christmas in front of a great environment, also knowing that people will be watching. We have several people in the locker room that love games that really mean something to the fans. We want to just build on what we've done the last three weeks ... for the fans, it probably has greater meaning than for the teams."
James was on a similar page, and talked about just continuing on the path of improvement that his Heat have seem to have found over their last 14 games, while posting wins in all but 13 of those contests.
"If it's against the Lakers or the Suns or the Nets or whoever the case may be, you don't want to take a step backwards," James said. "You definitely want to play some of your best ball against the best teams."
Still, it's just one game.
"I think it's just two teams -- two really good teams -- just using another game to try to get better," James said. "I think both teams are going to be looking to play good, to play great -- because it's the next game."
The Heat are expected to be at full strength for that next game, despite the fact that Wade didn't dress for his team's game in Phoenix.
"He was so fired up there after (the win over Phoenix), I can't imagine him not playing," Spoelstra said. LeBron was similarly confident, and answered a question about whether Wade would play against the Lakers with a chuckle and a nod in the affirmative.
With Miami at full strength, Spoelstra is likely correct in his assertion that fans will put more emphasis on how his team performs in Los Angeles, and with good reason. The Heat have faced the league's elite only four times this season, and have an 0-4 record in those games, losing twice to both the Celtics and the Mavericks.
The test against the Lakers is going to be a good one to see just how much the Heat have improved, and just how far they still have to go before teams consider them a serious threat to win a title. But no matter the result, LeBron insists that it's only one of eighty-two, and there will be no significance to it beyond that.
"I don't think it's a measuring stick," James said. "It's another game for us, and we hope to play well, and we're looking to play well. It's a building that they're very good in, but we don't look at it saying this is the game that can define our season. It's not, at all."
Click below to watch FanHouse Live talk NBA trade analysis and holiday hoops: