The Heat are on a 16-game winning streak. How much longer will it last?
By CHRIS TOMASSONFS Florida
MIAMI — Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra claims there’s no winning-streak talk coming from him. But there is some from Shane Battier.
Outside of Pat Riley, the Heat president who was a guard when the Los Angeles Lakers had a record 33-game run in 1971-72, the Miami forward could be considered the team’s streak expert. Battier was on the Houston Rockets when they won 22 in a row in 2007-08, the NBA's second-longest run ever.
Miami guard Ray Allen was on the Boston Celtics when they won 19 straight in 2008-09. But when Heat players wanted to learn about a streak while on a bus earlier this week, they turned to Battier.
“We talked about that a couple days ago, actually the whole team,’’ Heat guard Mario Chalmers said of the bus trip. “We asked Shane how many games they won. ... It was something we were all talking about.’’
Battier told Heat players tales of the 2007-08 Rockets, who had perhaps the most unexpected long winning streak ever. They lost star center Yao Ming for the year due to injury after the first 12 games, but kept on winning. Take away those 22 wins that season and the Rockets went 33-27 and lost 4-2 to Utah in the first round of the playoffs.
“That was the most lightning-in-a-bottle moment of my career,’’ Battier said. “That came out of nowhere. It was an unbelievable stretch, and the thing about that run that was so crazy was we were calling guys up from the D-League. We called up Mike Harris from the D-League and put him in and he (had some double-figure scoring games). We had Steve Novak hitting a game-winning shot after (barely having played). It was like everybody had their moment. It was the most out-of-left-field run I’ve ever been part of. ... We weren’t a championship team because of our injuries but we were a playoff team.’’
As for other epic streaks in NBA history, they usually do involve championship-caliber outfits. When the Lakers had their 33-game run, they went on to go 69-13, then the best regular-season record in history, and win the title. When the Milwaukee Bucks had a 20-game streak in 1970-71, then finished 66-16 and won the championship.
There have been just four regular-season streaks in league history of 20 games or longer. The other one was by the now-defunct Washington Capitols, who didn’t win a title but had a coach in Red Auerbach who went on to win nine with the Celtics. The Capitols won their final five regular-season games in 1947-48 and their first 15 in 1948-49 to reach 20.
The Heat would get to 20 if they win their next three home games against Philadelphia, Indiana and Atlanta and then win on the road against the 76ers next Wednesday. The Heat then would be going for 21 on March 15 at Milwaukee, a night they could move ahead of the Bucks and the Capitols and into sole possession of having the third-longest streak ever.
We’re getting ahead of ourselves here. Still, the game at Milwaukee could prove to be even more interesting considering that’s where the Lakers’ 33-game streak ended when they suffered a 120-104 loss to the Bucks on Jan. 9, 1972.
“It’s very impressive. We’re on a good streak,’’ Chalmers said of the Heat’s current run. “We’ve just got to keep going.’’
Chalmers said it “could be’’ a situation in which Miami at least passes Battier’s Rockets for the second-longest streak ever. But he stressed his team is taking one game at a time.
“Our concern is 17 now,’’ Heat center Chris Bosh said of that mentality.
At least that would tie the NBA single-season high. The Los Angeles Clippers won 17 in a row before they lost 92-78 at Denver on Jan. 1.
‘We don’t really get caught up in the streak,’’ forward LeBron James said. “We hear about it. You guys (the media) talk about it and, of course, we’re sports fans. We see it on television. But we don’t really get caught up in it.’’
Of course, if the streak keeps going for a while, it will be on more than just television. It will be in the history books.
“When you look back at it one day, it will be like, ‘We won that many games in a row,’’’ guard Dwyane Wade said about all is done. “But, right now, we’re just playing.’’
Obviously, Miami’s streak could end any time. Over the past two weeks, the team, at home, has barely beaten weaklings Cleveland, Sacramento and Orlando. The Heat nearly blew it Wednesday when they trailed the Magic by five points in the fourth quarter before surviving 97-96 after James made a decisive layup with 3.2 seconds left.
Still, the schedule is set up for what could be a very long Miami run. The Heat might not play a game in which they’re the underdog until March 31 at San Antonio. In case you’re wondering, they could have a 29-game winning streak entering that night.
In the meantime, Battier is willing to continue to dispense advice on how to handle a streak. He doesn’t believe it should be like an ongoing no-hitter, with players avoiding talking about it. He said the Rockets “had fun with’’ their streak and so should Miami.
“Don’t question it,’’ Battier said. “Don’t try to explain it. Just keep going and enjoy it and try to get better.’’
If the Heat end up passing the Rockets, players then can seek out Riley for wisdom. Riley told FOX Sports Florida last year that the Lakers’ streak “I don’t think ever will be broken.’’
If the Heat get close to 33, we’ll see if Riley changes his tune.
Who's Hot: Interesting there hasn’t been any Charles Barkley talk about Wade lately. The TNT analyst blasted him early in the season when Wade was having some struggles as he worked his way back from knee surgery. But Wade is now playing some of the most efficient ball of his 10-year career. Over his past five games, he’s averaged 27.4 points, 6.3 rebounds and 7.3 assists while shooting 59.2 percent.
Who's Not: James. Wait a minute. Is this serious? James isn’t hot? Well, by the standards he set in February, he’s not. James had one of the greatest months any player has had in NBA history. In 13 games, he averaged 29.7 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.8 assists while shooting 64.1 percent. In four March games, James has averaged 23.3 points, 8.0 rebounds and 5.8 assists while shooting 47.8 percent. Those are fine numbers. But after what James did in February, he hasn’t been hot in a March that has included a 4-of-14 shooting game and a seven-turnover night.
1. Don’t count Spoelstra as being too excited about Miami’s winning streak.
The Heat are still having problems putting together complete games, which was quite evident Wednesday. They lost a 20-point third-quarter lead to the Magic before making a late rally from a five-point deficit for the win.
“What we’re trying to do is get better,’’ Spoelstra said. “We were getting better in (Wednesday’s) first half. In the second half, we did not get better. We have to own it… In this league, sometimes you go through ups and downs, you go through winning sometimes and go through streaks and sometimes you forget about the process.’’
The Heat definitely have been winning, but there are times Spoelstra needs to offer a reminder about that process.
2. The Heat in their history never have beaten every other team in the NBA during a regular season. That will change Sunday if Miami, in its 25th year, defeats the Pacers.
It also would complete a Heat hit list. The Heat had a quest in the first three weeks following the All-Star break to get revenge against the four teams that had beaten them in the first half.
Miami got payback at Chicago on Feb. 21, against Memphis on March 1 and at New York last Sunday. That leaves the Pacers, who are 2-0 this season against the Heat, having won a pair of home games by an average margin of 11.5 points.
This is the final meeting between the teams, so it's Miami's last chance to beat every other team in the regular season. The Heat in 2010-11 didn’t defeat Chicago (0-3) and Dallas (0-2) during the regular season but got wins over both in the playoffs.
3. Greg Oden signing with the Heat this summer would be a win-win situation.
The Heat need a center and Oden would be a low-risk gamble since he wouldn’t command big bucks. The injury-riddled former No. 1 pick is trying to make a comeback after not having played in the NBA since December 2009.
The last thing Oden needs is a lot of pressure to come up big right away. If he went to Cleveland, he would have that pressure. But in Miami, with the focus on stars James, Wade and Bosh, Oden could progress at his own pace while not being counted on to make an immediate impact.
Quotes of the week
“Theirs is more impressive than ours. Yeah, I think so. They’re doing that without a training camp. They had no time to work together, to go out with what they are going to do. They just put it on the ice and just figure it out.’’
— James, saying the Chicago Blackhawks having earned at least a point in all 24 games so far during an NHL lockout season is a greater accomplishment than Miami’s ongoing streak.
"I've been on the opposite side, so I know how much that sucks. So you got to enjoy it.’’
— Wade, on Miami’s winning streak after having been part of a 15-game Heat losing skid in 2007-08.
“He should play every game against us.’’
— Spoelstra, on Magic center Nikola Vucevic, whose only two career 20-20 games have come against the Heat. Vucevic had 25 poins and 21 rebounds Wednesday after totaling 20 points and 29 rebounds Dec. 31 against Miami.
“Only playing against me. Lot of Boston matches.’’
— Wade, when asked if he’d ever seen Ray Allen as mad as he was when he had a run-in Monday with Minnesota guard J.J. Barea.
6 — Age Norris Cole, Miami's youngest player at 24, was when Juwan Howard made his NBA debut Nov. 19, 1994. Howard, 40, signed a 10-day contract last Saturday and is the oldest player in Heat history.
8 — Times this season the Heat have come back from a double-digit deficit to win a game. The latest was last Sunday, when they fought back from 16 points to win 99-93 at New York.
12 — Consecutive regular-season wins the Heat have over Philadelphia, which visits AmericanAirlines Arena on Friday and plays host next Wednesday to Miami. Including a 4-1 playoff win in 2011, the Heat have beaten the 76ers 16 of the past 17 times.
Every upcoming game could have added importance due to the Heat's winning streak, the longest in team history. After Friday’s date against the 76ers, they have home games with Indiana on Sunday and Atlanta on Tuesday. Then they’re back on the road with the game next Wednesday at Philadelphia.
Tower of Power?
It’s never been more evident. The Heat have had some recent off games but they continue to win. Many believe the Pacers are the only team in the East with a chance to topple Miami. More will be known about that after Indiana visits AmericanAirlines Arena.