The 1972 Los Angeles Lakers are already admitting they are starting to get nervous.
The 2013 Miami Heat are now entering Joe DiMaggio territory, with LeBron James riding an all-around statistical wave that is ranking historic in NBA annals.
Just like DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak remains sacred through the generations and has never been seriously in jeopardy, the Lakers’ 33-game win streak in a much-earlier era of NBA play has likewise stood the test of time.
The second longest win streak in pro basketball history is 22 games. The Heat can tie that mark in Toronto on Sunday.
But the question is can the Heat approach 34 — a quest that would get world-wide news press if they were to even get close.
To put it in perspective, the Heat need to run the table with a 13-game win streak, starting now, to set the record. The previous longest win streak in franchise history over 25 seasons of play? Fourteen games.
There has only been one other NBA winning streak longer than 13 games this season, when the Los Angeles Clippers won 17 straight.
The Heat’s current streak only marks the 20th time in Association history that a team has won as many as 16 in a row.
Another way to put the statistical probabilities in perspective is to look at some of the current college basketball teams vying for a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Duke went 14-4 in conference play this season; so did Indiana, so did Kansas, same with Louisville and Georgetown.
Kansas, in fact, lost at TCU, the Horned Frogs lone conference win of the season. If the Jayhawks can lose at TCU, then the Miami Heat can definitely lose at Toronto or Cleveland or even Charlotte.
On Any Given Sunday (or any other day of the week).
My point of comparison is that as much scrutiny as Duke or KU or other top teams get when they lose to lesser opposition, they still finished 14-4 in conference. Pro-rated over 82 games that would be 64-18, which usually earns a #1 seed in the NBA Playoffs.
But all of this said, the Heat have put themselves in position to make a run, as long as the roster and the Big Three (James/Wade/Bosh) can stay healthy.
Here is what I don’t like about the upcoming Miami schedule: seven of the next nine are on the road – and no NBA road game is automatic.
What I do like about the schedule? Eleven of the 13 games are against the Eastern Conference, and one other against ‘ceremonial’ Eastern Conference foe New Orleans. Just three of the 13 upcoming games are against what can be considered ‘elite’ competition.
And the Milwaukee team Miami just trashed for win number #21? The Bucks remain comfortably locked as an #8 seed and the Heat’s probable first round playoff opponent.
LeBron can freely refer to that upcoming first-round sweep as ‘breakfast’.
Here are the next 13 games for the Heat, and the probabilities for a Miami’s chances in each contest…
- @ Toronto (3/17) – The Raptors were eliminated from Eastern Conference playoff contention on Thanksgiving Day. That would be Canadian Thanksgiving Day. Look for the Heat to tie the Houston Rockets for the second-longest win streak ever at 22.
- @ Boston (3/18) – This is the most immediate hurdle. Not only is it the second night of a road back-to-back (and clearing customs), but the Heat are just 2-8 in Boston in the LeBron James era, including a double-overtime loss in January on a day when the Celtics learned that they would be without Rajon Rondo for the rest of the season. To add a little more fuel, Jason Terry is on record as not being ‘impressed’ by the Miami streak while Paul Pierce was quoted as saying “I hope they lose every game.” Well, to lose every game Miami first has to lose one game. I put Miami’s chances at getting out of Boston at slightly better than 50-50, if they win this, look out.
- @ Cleveland (3/20) – Three years after the fact, can any logical thinking Clevelander REALLY blame LeBron now? Perhaps James turned the charade into too much of a circus, but the fact remained that he correctly believed he had a better chance to win championships in Miami than staying put in Cleveland. That’s simple reality folks. The Cavs have been playing decent ball going 6-6 in their last 12. However, without Kyrie Irving I don’t see Cleveland being the team that beats Miami.
- v. Detroit (3/22) – The Pistons are rolling in the other direction as I speak, seven losses in a row. This would definitely be 25 if the streak’s intact.
- v. Charlotte (3/24) – Book number 26 in a row against the Association’s worst team, although the Heat only won by five the last time the Cats visited Miami. Lowly Sacramento taking the MH to double-overtime was another reminder on how no team can be taken for granted.
- @ Orlando (3/25) – In the closest call of the streak thus far, the Heat needed a LeBron James basket with 3.2 seconds remaining to defeat Orlando at home earlier this month. Even though this would be the second night of a back-to-back and on the road, I expect an easier time against the 17-44 Magic.
- @ Chicago (3/27) – Here’s when the road gets rough. The Bulls won in Miami earlier this year, although the Heat won 86-67 in the rematch in February. Tickets for this one are currently starting at $120 on StubHub.
- @ New Orleans (3/29) – The Pelicans may be near the bottom of the standings, but still, this is a road game and also a trap game considering the previous game and the two games that would follow. This will also be the Heat’s eighth game in 13 calendar days, Mike Krzyzewksi would tell you how daunting this type of a schedule is.
- @ San Antonio (3/31) – If the Heat are somehow vying for their 30th consecutive win at this point, this Easter Sunday game would figure to pull the largest regular season TV number in quite some time. Unless Spurs coach Greg Popovich decides his team has absolutely no chance to win and decides to rest all of his starters.
- v. New York (4/2) – This would be the last major hurdle, if the Heat get this far. Winning at Chicago, at San Antonio, then beating the Knicks, will be a very tall order.
- @ Charlotte (4/5) – The Heat would be front page news on every fish-wrap in the world if they get to this point, and would be obvious prohibitive favorites to push the streak to 32.
- v. Philadelphia (4/6) – This would be for a tie of the record, and a near certainty at this point as the Sixers have been plummeting all year. Unless Andrew Bynum miraculously gets better and makes his long-awaited Philly debut.
- v. Milwaukee (4/9) – This would be number 34. And everyone knows the Bucks were the team that ended the Lakers streak 40+ years ago. But the Big O is not walking through that door. Neither is The Greyhound, or Johnny Mac (except for Bucks TV commentary), or The King, or even the Electric Eye. Laverne and Shirley are not even walking through that door. I will offer this though: the Deer are much more feared away from Wisconsin. The Bucks are 16-16 on the road, the same as their record at the cavernous Bradley Center.
My prediction? The Heat will fall just short, and get tripped up just before they get to the record. Don’t be surprised if it’s a team no one dreamed of being capable to perform the task.
13 in a row is hard enough, let along 34…