Winderman: Cleveland an opportunity for Heat to show heart

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For a moment, let’s move past the powder, the banned T-shirts, the extra security.

Instead, let’s move into the moment itself, the heated, contentious atmosphere that will greet the Miami Heat during its Thursday visit to Quicken Loans Arena.

It will be as close as the NBA gets to playoffs in early December. And it’s something the Heat desperately needs.

To this point, when the going has gotten tough, the Heat has disappeared. Opening night in Boston. Amid the Hornets’ frenzied start to the season. In the face of a furious Utah comeback. Against the Celtics at home. And then last week in Orlando.

The lone quality win this season was Oct. 29 against the Magic. And that came during the Heat’s home opener, an unconditional embrace by a fan base that since has lost its way.

Getting the best of Mo Williams, Antawn Jamison and Anderson Varejao won’t be a statement by itself. The Cavaliers are as middling as it gets.

But standing up to the moment will say plenty.

For all he has accomplished on the sideline in leading the Heat to No. 5 playoff seeds the previous two seasons, Erik Spoelstra saw his team collapse in Game 7 of the 2009 first round in Atlanta and then fail to contend in the three playoff appearances in Boston last spring.

For all the hardware he has collected, LeBron James wilted when it meant the most last season for the Cavaliers.

And for all he accomplished in singlehandedly driving the Heat to the 2006 championship, Dwyane Wade hasn’t won a single playoff series since.

As for Chris Bosh? His teams haven’t even been relevant enough to merit a meaningful moment until this season.

In its most recent attempt to find its mojo, the Heat held a players-only meeting Saturday night in Dallas. It was a meeting held in the absence of Spoelstra, Pat Riley and sidelined co-captain Udonis Haslem, the only player on this roster willing to get in the faces of the Big Three.

Since that meeting, talk of dissention has only grown, votes of confidence non-existent.

That’s why the Heat needs Thursday, to exorcise the curse of Dan Gilbert, to move past all “The Decision” nonsense, to show there not only is a championship pulse, but, also, a heart.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/IraHeatBeat.