Heat starting to feel magnitude of win streak
MIAMI — LeBron James might test positive for truth serum.
After having previously danced around reality with his talk about the Miami Heat's lengthy winning streak, it looked as if more of the same would come from the King's throne after it reached 19 games Tuesday night. James even at one point claimed to not know the length of the streak.
"That's where we're at right now?" James initially said to a reporter after Miami's 98-81 walloping of Atlanta at AmericanAirlines Arena.
But then it was as if somebody had slipped truth serum into James' sports beverage. He was asked if he will at least be able to appreciate the streak when he retires.
Suddenly, James' tone changed. Suddenly, he was willing to say his Heat are indeed experiencing one of the greatest runs in NBA history.
"No, I'll probably look back on it before then," James said. "Let's be honest, guys, we're not sitting here and saying this is not something special. This is an unbelievable streak that we're on. We're playing great basketball. We win in different phases of the game. We're playing different syles. We've won every game, on the road, at home. Double overtime games. End-of-regulation games. Whatever the case may be, we've been able to pull games out. So I'm not going to sit here and say that it's not special what we're doing."
Nice of James finally to acknowledge what everybody in the free world knows, although perhaps Dennis Rodman has gotten word to the folks in North Korea. The Heat have been on a magical five-week journey.
Tuesday's win enabled the Heat, who got game-high 23 points from guard Dwyane Wade, to tie for the fifth-longest winning streak in NBA regular-season history. A victory Wednesday at Philadelphia and the Heat will become just the fifth team to reach 20.
"It would mean a lot," said Heat guard Mario Chalmers, who has a locker close to James' and might have gotten some of that truth serum. "I don't want to jinx us but that would mean a lot."
It's doubtful anything can jinx the Heat against the woeful 76ers. They've won 13 straight regular-season games against them.
A victory Wednesday to start a five-game trip would move Miami into a tie for the third-longest streak ever. The Milwaukee Bucks won 20 in 1970-71 and the now-defunct Washington Capitols won their final five regular-season games of 1947-48 and their first 15 of 1948-49.
The Heat could move ahead of the Bucks on Friday at Milwaukee. That was the site where the Los Angeles Lakers' record 33-game winning streak was snapped in 1971-72 season.
The only other team with a streak longer than 20 was the 2007-08 Houston Rockets, who got to 22. Heat forward Shane Battier was on that team, which went one of the craziest runs in NBA history after having lost star center Yao Ming midway through the streak.
There's nothing crazy about this spurt by the Heat (48-14), who moved further ahead of the San Antonio Spurs (49-16) for having the NBA's top record. They're just better than everybody else.
"This is probably the best stretch of bastketball I've seen in 10 years in the NBA," Hall of Famer and Hawks broadcaster Dominique Wilkins told FOX Sports Florida. "Their main guys (James, Wade and Chris Bosh) are shooting the ball at an unbelievable clip and everybody has accepted their complementary role."
Actually, James didn't shoot too well Tuesday, going 3-of-11 while scoring 15 points. It was the fewest number of field goals he's made in his three Heat seasons and also his lowest field-goal percentage (27.3) during that time.
Big deal. The Heat are playing so well it didn't matter. They played great defense against the Hawks (34-29) and also got 14 points apiece from Bosh and Chalmers.
"I took 10 shots the last (game) and took 11 (Tuesday) and we've won by a combined average of, I don't know, a lot," said James also referring to scoring a season-low 13 points in a 105-91 rout Sunday of Indiana.
It's sure helped that Wade, who had knee surgery last July, now says he's feeling the best he has since the Big Three first joined forces in 2010. Wade had five steals against the Hawks, giving him an incredible total of 11 his past two games.
Wade recently has been as important to Miami as James. And he's got the latest award for Eastern Conference Player of the Week to prove it as his Heat have continued to pile up victories.
"It'd be great," Wade said of Miami being on the doorstep of 20 straight wins. "I would say it's pretty cool. You know that you're a part of history."
Even Bosh, who had been dismissing the streak before in LeBron-like fashion, said after Tuesday's win that "20's cool. I'll take it."
As for Miami coach Erik Spoelstra, he might be the team's last holdout. He continues to downplay the streak, saying once again he never even has mentioned it to his team.
If the Heat keeps winning, we'll see if Spoelstra ends up getting a dose of truth serum.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson