Philadelphia, PA – Now that the Miami Heat have tied the second-longest winning streak in NBA history, is the all-time mark in jeopardy?
The 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers took 33 in a row. That's the benchmark. Can the Heat reach it?
When this streak started, which was 10 days before Pope Benedict XVI ANNOUNCED his resignation, the Heat were tops in the East, but not 11 1/2 games ahead of everyone else.
They are 11 games from tying the Lakers, 12 for the outright record.
In streaks like this, the most important game is the next one. That sounds a lot like public relations mantra, but it's reality. You start thinking about something like this before each game, and you lose.
Here's a look at the next 12 on the Heat's docket. We'll analyze their chances of immortality.
- Boston Celtics, Monday night, on the road. When this streak started to become interesting, this was a date everyone circled as a possible finale.
The Celtics have won 10 in a row at home during the regular season against the Heat and this had turned into something of a bloodsport rivalry. Factor in this was the second of a back-to-back and it looked like this would be the end of the line for the Heat.
Can you point out where your adductor is?
Kevin Garnett knows where his is and knows his left one is strained. Garnett sat out Saturday's win over Charlotte, but couldn't practice on Sunday and head coach Doc Rivers said, "if he's healthy, he'll play, and if he's not, he will not."
He's not, so expect Garnett to sit and that's a huge plus for Miami. Without Garnett's defensive intensity, the task got easier. It's not a walkover, certainly. The C's have won 11 straight at home, but the Heat should survive.
- Cleveland Cavaliers, Wednesday night, on the road. With Kyrie Irving, this would be a heck of a matchup to watch, but without him, the Cavs aren't quite road kill, but they're close. James is inspired in his old hometown, although Wednesday ends a four-game road swing. Are the Heat just so happy to get home? Nope.
- Detroit Pistons, Friday night, at home. The Pistons have been atrocious. They've lost eight in a row and their slide probably reaches nine with a date in Brooklyn on Monday. Yeah, Heat kill them.
- Charlotte Bobcats, Sunday night, at home. Out of respect for the Heat, the NBA and, to some degree, the Bobcats, let's just say I like Miami's chances.
- Orlando Magic, Mar. 25, on the road. On paper, this is a rout, but Orlando is the only team that lost to the Heat by fewer than three points during this run. That happened, in Orlando, on Mar. 6. LeBron James hit a tough left- handed layup for the win. The Magic play hard, but the defending champs will be ready to humble them for daring to come so close to beating them. This could be sneaky tough.
- Chicago Bulls, Mar. 27, on the road. Now, we've got something interesting. The Bulls are elite defensive team loaded with veterans. They've beaten the Heat this season, a 96-89 victory on Jan. 4 in Miami. They need the game for positioning in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Problem is, the Bulls are not great at home. Chicago is 18-14 and the Heat already pummeled them during this streak and in the Windy City to boot. This will be the trickiest test to date.
- New Orleans Hornets, Mar. 29, on the road. New Orleans is called the Big Easy. That's also an applicable description of this win for the Heat.
- San Antonio Spurs, Mar. 31, on the road. Wow, here we go. The best two teams in the league. The Spurs are elite at home. It's easy to look at this as the demise of the streak, but remember a few things.
First, the Heat manhandled the Oklahoma City Thunder on the road just before the All-Star break, so playing in a big-game environment doesn't scare them. Secondly, the Spurs probably won't have Tony Parker back from his ankle sprain yet. On the other hand, the Spurs have won some big games, at home, without the Frenchman. The beat OKC a week ago and have the personnel to do it. Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter will be tough to match up with for the Heat.
Perhaps the most damning stat going against the Heat on that night will be their record in San Antonio. The Spurs are an eye-opening, 22-2 in regular- season games played in Alamo City. The last win came on Nov. 7, 2008. Before that, Dec. 23, 1996. Before that? NEVER.
The streak ends on Mar. 31, 2013. It will reach 29, but go no further.
It's a shame, too. Three of Miami's next four will be at home, although the New York Knicks and Milwaukee Bucks both play the Heat tough. Even the Philadelphia 76ers give them a go.
Losing this streak won't cripple the Heat either. Head coach Erik Spoelstra probably doesn't need this kind of an albatross around the collective neck heading into playoff time where winning four games before the other team is all that matters.
But it was fun while it lasted. The Heat always had the aura of immortality. They've lived up to it during this season, but careers are built on championship rings, not winning streaks. Although, winning 22 games in a row is a more impressive accomplishment than winning a title.
The rest of the league just has to hope the Heat peaked too soon.
- I love that Mark Cuban booed Derek Fisher when the Oklahoma City Thunder came to Dallas. Fisher was on Dallas, asked for his release, then signed with the contending Thunder 65 days later. This is the third time Fisher has weaseled his way out of a contract, just to end up with a better team. I'm just not a fan of the way Fisher conducts business.
- Larry Sanders getting ejected in consecutive games in inexcusable. "You're a professional athlete, and you have to behave like a professional," said Milwaukee Bucks interim coach Jim Boylan. Bingo. Sanders has been a revelation this season, but things like this taint reputations.
- The MVP and Rookie of the Year races are done. James and Damian Lillard have them wrapped up. Most Improved, Defensive Player of the Year and Coach of the Year are not.
- I'm going with Louisville, Ohio State, Florida and Indiana with Louisville topping Indiana. Before Selection Sunday, I thought I'd go with Louisville, Duke, Michigan State and Saint Louis as a Final Four if I could. They are the top-four seeds in the Northwest. Rats.
- I had the Houston Rockets 28th in the NBA prior to the season (and, in my defense, prior to the James Harden trade). They are closing in on the sixth seed in the West. I'm smart.
- Movie moment - Much like the James Bond series, I've never seen a Harry Potter movie. I actively try to avoid them. Wizardry is not my thing.
- TV moment - Someone standing next to me the other day said, "I want to watch that Splash to see Kareem Abdul-Jabbar dive." I almost slapped his face. I've said it before, I'm not a big reality television person, but this is the death of civilization - the fact that there are TWO celebrity reality diving shows. Why would anyone want to watch Kareem dive, because he's tall? It can't be because he's famous. You real interested in seeing if he can get his legs tucked on a pike? It's idiotic. I'm not judging, except I think if you look forward to watching these shows you're part of the problem. So, yeah, I am judging.