When we initially spoke about the Miami Heat’s ongoing winning streak, the idea that luck and timing could play as big a factor as opponent and talent was tossed out. The NBA works as an entertainment device, bent on sending teams around North America for 82 games in a five and a half-month turn, and as a result the best team doesn’t always win every night.
The Miami Heat, defending champions, are the NBA’s best team. This is why they’ve won 25 games in a row. The NBA record for consecutive wins is 33, set by the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers, and if Miami keeps winning the Heat have a chance to break that record on April 9 when they take on the Milwaukee Bucks. The same Milwaukee franchise, you may have read, that stopped the Lakers’ streak some 41 years ago.
Can the Heat pull it off? Is it worth reeling those wins off, when attempting to defend a championship sometime in mid-June? And which David, on the Heat’s schedule, has the stones to pull off the eventual upset? Click the jump for the breakdown.
The Next Opponent
The Miami Heat take on the Charlotte Bobcats tonight. For those of you that are still working through a basketball bracket, this is a 30-seed taking on the top seed.
You get the feeling that each and every member of the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers, save for reserve guard Pat Riley, now has the Heat’s schedule bookmarked on their AOL browsers. The California crew hasn’t been bothered, really, for 40 years – and probably wasn’t all that worried when the 2007-08 Houston Rockets “threatened” their 33-game winning streak with a 22-game run five years ago. And now that team is faced with staring down a challenge from a Heat team designed by that jerk backup guard in Riley … wait let’s check the schedule, and, c’mon … the Bobcats?
The Heat are moving closer to the record, and they get to take on the freaking Bobcats? The Magic, Cavaliers, and Pistons weren’t enough?
It’s true that the 1972 Lakers had a 17-team NBA to work its way through as the team piled up 33 wins; and we think that even if this year’s model of the Miami Heat takes down that record, the Lakers’ trip to 33 would be more impressive than Miami’s run to glory. Still, there was an 11-team ABA in existence in 1972, full of NBA-level players and future Basketball Hall of Famers, and the current 30-team NBA is packed full of internationally-raised stars that just weren’t scouted (much less signed, and thriving) 40 years ago.
Of course, none of these players are on the 2012-13 Charlotte Bobcats. Which is why it would be an upset to end all upsets if Heat lose on Sunday night.
The Heat, in a way, are using these sorts of games as practice runs. Even with so much on the line. From The Associated Press:
"I'm taking the world view, that we have room to improve," forward Shane Battier said. "By no stretch of the imagination are we playing our best basketball right now. We're winning ball games, but we have a lot of room for improvement. We have not started well the last couple games and our defensive focus has not been there. It's been there in the second half and when we need it, but we need to do it more consistently."
And this seems like pablum. Something you give the sportswriters because you know they and their readers need something to easily chew on. But then you remember that this is the same Heat squad that ran up a 6-1 record against both the Boston Celtics and Oklahoma City Thunder last June, in its final seven games of the 2011-12 season. Dominating efforts that left the whole league wondering if they should just give up for a few years.
This is why the current Miami Heat, and probably the members of the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers, probably don’t think much about the most recent stretch of the Heat’s run. Even though we all should stand in admiration. Especially considering the roster makeup of the 1971-72 Buffalo Braves.
Chris Bosh only had five points in the Heat’s win over Detroit on Friday, a season low that saw him miss six of the seven shots he took from the field. For most teams, an All-Star making max money while shooting 1-7 from the field would serve as a major story. For the Heat, though, it’s just a minor quibble – Bosh is often left out of the offense while LeBron James and Dwyane Wade dominate the ball, usually asked to bail the team out late in a possession that didn’t work out with a low-percentage-for-everyone-but-Chris-Bosh long jump shot as the shot clock winds down.
This is why LeBron James, mindful of how Chris Bosh has subjugated his ego, is keen to kindly celebrate the man’s birthday on Sunday:
Happy b-day to my homie @chrisbosh! Enjoy your last year in the dubs! Lol
— LeBron James (@KingJames) March 24, 2013
(I didn’t know we were supposed to refer to our 20s as “the dubs.” Then again, I probably would have been made fun of by people in the dubs, while in my dubs, had I referenced living in my dubs.) There’s also this, because LeBron James is still in the dubs:
The NBA reacted with a collective yawn on Friday night, as the Heat racked up its 25th win in a row. Which is why we have to reach all the way back to March 20 to point out this gem from ESPN’s Tom Haberstroh:
On Friday we looked at how merciless the Heat have been in crunch time. Monday's win over the Celtics was an extension of that dominance. The Heat are outscoring opponents 145-75 in 49 minutes of clutch situations during their 23-game win streak, according to NBA.com/stats. (Clutch situations are defined as any time the game is within five points in the final five minutes of fourth quarter or overtime.)
Again, 145-75 in 49 minutes. That's a deficit of 70 points in what amounts to about a full game of basketball. But when we go deeper into the data, we find something more staggering: LeBron James' numbers in the clutch are pretty good.
This isn’t even reflecting the comeback win the Heat gave us on Wednesday, and certainly isn’t included the blowout thrashing of the Detroit Pistons on Friday.
For reasons we listed up above, it’s just fine to pile on Miami for what seems like an easy road to 25 wins and counting. This is still some dominant [stuff], though, put together by a team that is winning more games in a row than just about everyone’s favorite Laker/Bulls/Celtics team ever hoped for.
If you’re favorite team was the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers, then you can still laugh down your sleeve at the Heat, and their recent work. You may only have two weeks left the laugh it up, though.