Things are starting to get serious.
With their 105-103 win over the Boston Celtics this past Monday, the Heat not only stretched their winning streak to 23 games, but survived one of the more difficult stretches of games that could have possibly halted the streak.
In the past week’s worth of road games, Miami survived a late deficit at Philadelphia, breezed through Milwaukee, ran off a huge run in the final minutes for a win at Toronto, and just recently pulled off that 17-point comeback, a season-best by Miami, against Boston.
The Heat’s final leg of the road trip is tonight. They are taking on a Cleveland Cavaliers team playing without Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters. All of the jeering and C.J. Miles’ three-pointers in the world may not put an end to this streak.
Miami’s next four games are against the worst teams the decrepit Eastern Conference has to offer. Five of their next six are coming against teams that aren’t even close to sniffing the playoffs.
Because this streak has reached lengths that we haven’t pictured since the days the “Big Three” was first assembled, it’s completely understood when analysts and fans alike peer into their crystal ball and think of the team that could put an end to the streak.
Miami is currently an 11-game winning streak away from setting the all-time record set by the 1971-’72 Los Angeles Lakers.
Put the winning streak into perspective. An 11-game winning streak is difficult enough on its own. The Heat have to go through three of those plus another win to break the record.
Miami has made it look easy for stretches, but they’re also having to bring their A-game each and every night because of the targets being put on their back. Just look at how well the Celtics, playing without Rajon Rondo and their emotional leader in Kevin Garnett, played the Heat.
The only way Miami keeps this winning streak will be based solely on the effort they put forth, as well as the usual concerns of health. It’s been common knowledge over the past two years that if the Heat want to win a game, they will.
Thus why you see the Heat in battles with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Orlando Magic. Sorry, but Nikola Vucevic and Marreese Speights don’t exactly rile up the Heat as much as Carmelo Anthony or Kevin Durant would, which is why you see the Heat in wire-to-wire contests with these inferior teams.
If you’re going to attempt to predict when the Heat’s streak will end, you’re not going to because you have no say in it. Miami is the best team in the NBA and they can win 34 consecutive games if they want to, but only if the effort is there.
You can look to those road games against Chicago and San Antonio next week and pinpoint those matchups as possible letdowns, but there is more possibility in the Heat dropping one of these next four games.
Let’s take a look at the history of the Heat’s next four opponents:
Kyrie Irving isn’t playing tonight, so that means the Heat are a shoo-in for a win, right?
Wrong. The Heat played the Kyrie-less Cavaliers at home and needed a game-winner from Ray Allen in the final seconds for a two-point victory. Eight Cavaliers scored in double-figures, while LeBron James and Dwyane Wade combined for 53.
Cleveland also hit 14 of their 31 three-pointers.
The second meeting was even more hectic. Miami held a double-digit lead throughout, but saw it evaporate in the span of three consecutive threes by C.J. Miles, who is second in the league in three-pointers off the bench.
Miami needed a huge fourth quarter by Dwyane Wade to eek out a 109-105 win.
The Heat are playing Cleveland at the Quicken Loans Arena for the first time this season. Irving and Waiters are both out, but that certainly won’t prevent the Cavs’ role players to put on a show as they did the first two meetings.
There were two completely different Heat teams in the first two meetings against the Detroit Pistons this season.
The first was one at the end of December that somehow found a way to give 41 points in a single 12-minute quarter to the Pistons. Charlie Villanueva, Will Bynum, and Austin Daye combined to shoot 9-of-11 from beyond the arc.
The second meeting was more of what was expected in the first matchup: Miami beating up on Detroit and winning by a lot of points, 21 to be exact. However, Greg Monroe did put on a show with 31 points and 12 rebounds in 34 minutes.
The Pistons will be at the Heat’s house this Thursday.
Against the league’s worst team over the past two years, the Miami Heat have found a way to make a contest worth watching against the Charlotte Bobcats.
The Heat won the first meeting by 13, after watching a double-digit lead spiral nearly into a deficit, and most recently won by five at home thanks in part to LeBron James’ legendary 13-of-14 shooting effort.
Even in the Heat’s house, the Bobcats have played the NBA’s definitive top team down to the final minutes. Nothing is assured in this league and every last win should be appreciated because they are not as easy as Miami makes it out to be.
Two meetings with the Orlando Magic, and the Miami Heat have won those games by a combined three points.
On both occasions, the Heat allowed Nikola Vucevic to go off for a 20-point, 20-rebound performance. The Magic’ center was allowed to do whatever he pleased in the paint, stealing rebounds from Udonis Haslem and outworking Chris Bosh.
Miami needed overtime and a late defensive-stand in the first meeting, but most recently nearly saw their streak come to an end because of a poor second-half effort. The Heat squandered a lead and needed a few breaks from the officiating and a LeBron James game-winning layup to keep the streak going.
This will start off a four-game road trip.
New Orleans Hornets
The Hornets didn’t put up much of a fight in the meeting at the Triple A losing by 16, but they will have come-court advantage this time around.
While that may not make things too different, especially when you consider Miami has won 11 consecutive on the road and the Hornets are only 12-21 at home, but the Heat also haven’t won in New Orleans since 2005.
Doubtful that it will make a difference, but it’s a bad team in an environment Miami has had trouble winning in so anything is possible.
If Miami is able to defeat Cleveland tonight, work through a three-game homestand against awful teams and then sweep a four-game road trip that includes San Antonio and Chicago, then the schedule leading up to a 34-winning streak looks like this:
vs New York (3/2)
at Charlotte (3/4)
at Philadelphia (3/5)
vs Milwaukee (3/9)
The winning streak could potentially be set with a win at home over the Bucks.
But we won’t get to ahead of ourselves. After all, that’s the last thing we would want the Miami Heat to be doing.