Let’s not allow this winning streak to boost the Miami Heat onto a pedestal even higher than they already are.
The Heat have put together a 20-game winning streak at the perfect time of the year. While each team gets set for the postseason by whittling down rotations and coming to a conclusion on which starting lineups are the most effective, the Heat have been ahead of the curve since prior to the All-Star break.
Miami hasn’t lost a game since a 102-89 road loss to the Indiana Pacers. Since then, the Heat have gotten revenge on the Pacers with a 105-91 home win that was never in doubt in the second half. Indiana joins a lengthy list of opponents that have fallen at the hands of the Heat’s myriad of scenarios to defeat a team with.
What’s more impressive about this winning streak? The fact that Miami is 4-0 on the second night of back-to-backs? That they have made easy work of possible postseason opponents in Oklahoma City, Chicago, and Indiana?
How about being healthy for the first time in the “Big Three” era? Dwyane Wade, who has played like the Wade of 2009 and 2010, has been a key part of the streak, including the past weeks’ worth of games that have featured LeBron James posting up statistics well below his average.
James is allowed to score 13 points against Indiana and can hit three field-goals against Philadelphia because of how effective and rejuvenated Wade has been over the past month.
Dwyane made it a point to judge him after the All-Star break, once his rehabilitation from offseason knee surgery finalized. Well, we’re getting what we expected out of the perennial All-Star who was claimed by many to have lost a step.
And yet, here’s Wade winning Player of the Week awards, while averaging 21.8 points on a career-high 52 percent shooting from the field to go along with five rebounds and 4.9 assists per.
This has been a consistent all-around effort by everyone on the Heat. Bosh is getting back into the form he was in prior to the All-Star break, Ray Allen is back to hitting jumpers (even on the road!), and Mario Chalmers is even beginning to convert the open three-pointers he receives on a consistent basis.
The obvious questioning behind this winning streak is when it will end. There have been a number of close games, specifically that controversial one-point victory over an abysmal Orlando Magic team, and Miami still finds itself failing to put away inferior opponents as they did against the Philadelphia 76ers in their most recent 98-94 win.
Miami has had no trouble putting away the elite teams of the league. But the lesser teams have been a thorn in the Heat’s side all season.
The Sixers, for the second time in a week, bothered the Heat and tested them until the fourth; Cleveland erased a double-digit deficit in the span of a few jumpers that nearly allowed them to pull out a win; and Sacramento pushed the Heat to double-overtime in a game where Miami needed 141 points to pull out a victory.
The Heat are 14 consecutive wins away from setting the all-time NBA record of consecutive wins, set by the 1972 Los Angeles Lakers. Miami is currently tied with the Washington Capitols for third all time.
The 2008 Houston Rockets are two games ahead after stringing together 22 consecutive wins.
There are several characteristics in the remainder of the regular season that would play into the idea of the Heat possibly setting the record, even though it may seem like an impossibility.
For one, 17 of the Heat’s next 19 opponents are against the Eastern Conference. A four-game stretch alone features a game on the road against the Kyrie Irving-less Cavaliers, home outings against Detroit and Charlotte, and a road meeting with the Magic.
However, those games come after the remainder of a four-game road trip is played out. To say the least, it’s an arduous trip; one that features Milwaukee, a team that beat the Heat 104-89 in December, and then Toronto and Boston on a back-to-back.
Tonight’s game against Milwaukee has long been my prediction for when this streak comes to an end.
However, not having Scott Skiles as a coach any longer weighs against that theory. The gritty, physical team Skiles brought up is now giving up the most shots at the rim and the seventh-most corner threes in the league since his departure.
Skiles has always been a bother to the Heat, since his days as a coach of the Chicago Bulls that featured professional Wade-nuisance, Kirk Hinrich.
There’s always the chance Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis happen to have incredible shooting nights. Or Larry Sanders single-handily shuts down the paint. Or somebody like John Henson or Luc Richard Mbah a Moute go off for a patented “Random Scrub Heat Killer” kind of night.
Well, how about the back-to-back? Miami is an NBA-best 9-1 on the second end of back-to-backs, but this may be the most daunting.
Although Miami won the first two meetings, including a 100-85 victory that sparked the winning streak, the Raptors’ offense has always seemed to have their way with Miami for a duration of the game before the Heat focus long enough to put their opponent away.
While Rudy Gay now runs the show, the Heat can breathe easier knowing Jose Calderon and his perimeter and penetrating game have departed for Detroit.
If the Heat get past the Boston Celtics, they could easily see the streak reach 27 before a road game against the Chicago Bulls. But it’s not as if the Bulls have been all that daunting, dropping a 21-point loss in the Heat’s previous visit to Chicago and recently dropping a game by 42 to the Sacramento Kings.
The Heat then move on to play the remaining two Western Conference teams on the regular season schedule: the New Orleans Hornets and San Antonio Spurs.
The Hornets shouldn’t pose too much of a threat, but that could all change depending on how Miami is feeling that night, but the Spurs, currently with a league-leading 50 wins, will pose a certain and immediate threat.
Miami won the first meeting 105-100 at home, but that came with Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Danny Green sitting. It would be surprising to see coach Gregg Popovich sit those guys a second time against Miami, especially since it might be a highly plausible NBA Finals matchup.
If the Heat somehow keep the streak alive, they’ll have to beat the New York Knicks at home, and then beat Charlotte on the road and Philadelphia at home on a back-to-back.
An NBA-record 34-game winning streak could be set with a win at home over the Milwaukee Bucks on April 9th.
It’s an extremely tall order to ask, but if there is any team in the modern-era with the potential to capture such an achievement it would be the Miami Heat.
The only problem is that it’s up to the Miami Heat if they want to set it. The Heat have set themselves on a completely different level from other team, with the possible exception of the Spurs, and it’s going to be completely up to them if they want to put in the effort to win 14 more games in a row.
If this Heat team has proven anything, however, it’s that the only wins that matter are the 16 that come in the season that matters.