The Miami Heat’s ongoing winning streak is captivating the nation. The primary reason, of course, is it’s incredible to win 23 straight, which is where it now stands. But another is that each recent game has provided a compelling storyline.
In Monday’s 105-103 win at Boston, it was forward LeBron James hitting the go-ahead jumper with 10.5 seconds left as the Heat overcame a 13-point deficit with 8 minutes left. But the James play most talked about was his near decapitation of Celtics guard Jason Terry with a second-quarter dunk.
Terry has bad blood with the Heat from his Dallas Mavericks beating Miami two years ago in the NBA Finals. And last Friday he did nothing to hide it, saying foolishly about the Heat’s streak, “Not really impressed with it or anything that they do.”
Three days later, James nearly left an impression on Terry’s head. James took a lob from Norris Cole and threw down a vicious alley-oop over Terry as the Celtics guard ran for cover. James than got a taunting technical for staring down at the fallen guard.
Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, who had victimized Detroit Pistons guard Brandon Knight with a thunderous March 10 dunk, tweeted following James’ effort, “touché.”
“I haven’t seen it yet,” James, who had 37 points and 12 assists, told reporters after the game about Jordan’s tweet. “I’ll check it out. But I did see DeAndre Jordan’s (dunk). I was in my living room watching that. So if he said ‘touché’ it must have been pretty good.”
So did James even see the helpless Terry while dunking over him?
“Yeah, I saw him down there,” James said. “I guess he didn’t see me.”
That was simply the latest compelling storyline surrounding the Heat streak. Entering last Friday, they were tied with the 1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks at 20 for the third-longest winning streak in NBA history. And they were playing in the Bucks in Milwaukee, the place where the Los Angeles Lakers’ record 33-game winning streak ended in 1971-72.
Score that one for the Heat, who won 107-94 for No. 21. That set the stage for a Sunday game at Toronto.
The Heat were returning to where their streak had started Feb. 3 and they were trying to tie the 2007-08 Houston Rockets at 22 for the second-longest winning streak in NBA history. Miami forward Shane Battier was on that Houston team, and he played a key role in a 108-91 win over the Raptors.
So what about the Heat going for No. 24? Well, James returns Wednesday for the fourth time to Cleveland, the city he bolted in the summer of 2010 to head to Miami. Wouldn’t the Cavaliers love to put an end to the streak?
James sidestepped a question about showing up for the first time in Cleveland with a ring on his finger after Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert had declared his team would win a title before James did. James did say it will be good to see some familiar folks but that there’s hardly anybody left on the Cavaliers from when he departed.
“It’s a lot different now,” said James, whose Heat stormed back Monday from a 17-point deficit in the second quarter, the comeback coming 15 days after they had overcome a 16-point deficit to win 99-93 at New York. “There’s only one guy (on the Cavaliers) that’s actually active right now that I played with and that’s Daniel Gibson. (Anderson Varejao) is out for the season. It’s a different coaching staff, it’s a different uniform and everything. So it’s totally different.”
Nevertheless, it’s another great story angle as the streak continues.
Monday’s win left the Heat alone in second place in NBA annals for streaking. And it would figure the game was locked up and the 2007-08 Rockets were left behind thanks to some key late plays by Battier.
With 8 seconds left, Battier blocked a shot on a drive by Boston forward Jeff Green, who had the game of his life with a career-high 43 points. Shortly thereafter, following a missed jumper by Celtics forward Paul Pierce, Battier inbounded the ball on the side of the court with 1 second left and threw it off the back of Pierce to allow the clock to run out.
“That’s vintage Shane Battier, thinking outside the box. That’s a Duke play,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra quipped.
Battier once won 32 straight games at Duke. Now, he’s the first player in NBA history to have been on two teams that have 20 or more games.
But can the Heat get to 34 and knock the Lakers out of the record book? If they reach 33, they would then have to get by the Bucks (yep, the team that stopped the Lakers’ streak) on April 9.
“If you’re not first, you’re last. That’s what Ricky Bobby said,” Miami guard Dwyane Wade said about the streak after Monday’s game, referring to the movie “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.”
If the Heat get by Cleveland, they would appear to have an easy voyage to at least reach 27 straight wins. They have home games Friday against Detroit and Sunday against Charlotte and play at Orlando next Monday.
It remains to be seen what compelling stories could come out of games against those miserable teams. But you got to figure there will something.