All the Miami Heat do is win. But for how much longer?
LeBron James and company set a franchise record with a 15th consecutive victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves. Those 15 wins seem even more incredible when you acknowledge that Miami hasn't lost in over a month (February 1st).
Of these 15 victories, 10 have come by double-digit point margins and seven have come on the road. The Heat have actually won so much that it has become sensible practice to wonder whether they'll lose again this season.
Logic would dictate they will. Knowing that this particular stretch has seen them turn teams like the Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder into regular season fodder, though, it's difficult to ignore the aforementioned question.
Like all spectacular things, however, this span of utter dominance must also come to an end.
Is that "end" nearing arrival?
That's a query only their upcoming schedule can answer.
*All stats used in this article were compiled from Basketball-Reference, Synergy Sports and 82Games.com unless otherwise noted.
The Orlando Magic pushed the Heat to overtime in the first meeting between these two, but I'd expect a far different outcome the second time around.
Orlando has lost 20 of the last 23 games and hasn't defeated a winning faction since it dethroned the Indiana Pacers back on January 16.
Bear in mind that the Magic are also now without J.J. Redick, who torched the Heat for 23 points. Down his volume scoring and facing a much improved Miami defense, I'd be surprised if the Magic crack 90 points.
Division bouts are often more competitive than we originally envision, but the way the Heat are currently playing, coupled by the way Orlando is playing, all but ensures Miami walks away with victory.
A blowout victory, to be more specific.
Chances Miami Loses vs. Orlando: 10 percent
Had Andrew Bynum not torpedoed the Philadelphia 76ers' immediate hopes and dreams, this might have actually been a competitive matchup.
Miami still tends to struggle when facing teams that house elite bigs (Pacers, Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies, etc.) and Bynum's domineering post presence would have gone a long way in determining the outcome.
Sadly, for the Sixers, they've been relegated to playing a superstar down all season. Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner have performed well, and Thaddeus Young has had his moments, but heading into their March 5th battle against the Boston Celtics, the Sixers have lost 8-of-9.
Their (inconsistently) stingy defense should give the Sixers a greater chance of knocking the Heat off their victory wagon than the Magic, but that's not exactly saying much.
Count on the Heat to hit 17 straight.
Chances Miami Loses vs. Philadelphia: 15 percent
Indiana is widely considered the only team in the Eastern Conference who can unseat Miami. In fact, the Pacers have already bested the Heat twice this season.
Boasting the top-rated defense (thus far) this season, Indiana poses a serious problem for Miami's penetration-heavy attack. The Pacers are among the best in the league at rotating on that end of the ball and they've got premiere defenders both in the starting lineup and coming off the pine.
Of course, the Heat should have momentum going into this one. That this is also the first game they've played against the Pacers at home is also beneficial to their cause.
Still, it's plausible to believe that the Pacers upset Miami for a third consecutive victory. They present a plethora of matchup problems and heading into their game against the Celtics on March 6, they've won seven of their last eight.
Will LeBron James and crew be able to reverse their recent misfortune against a bullying Indiana team?
The Pacers may have clobbered them on their own turf, but Miami has been near unbeatable (26-3) at home.
Chances Miami Loses vs. Indiana: 48 percent
Miami will look to go for the season series sweep against the Atlanta Hawks, in what will be the Heat's final contest of a four game homestand. And you have to like their chances.
Though the Heat won the first two games against the Hawks by an average point margin of just 7.5, they defeated Atlanta by 13 at the Highlight Factory in their previous meeting.
For most teams, Josh Smith is a headache to defend. His ability to score from anywhere on the floor makes him near impossible to guard.
Anything Smith can do, though, LeBron James and even Dwyane Wade (save for threes) can do better.
Smith and Al Horford form quite the tandem at times, but the Hawks don't have enough star power to upend Miami's overwhelmingly prolific lineup.
Dating back to last season, the Hawks have now lost six in a row to the Heat as well. Some might take that to mean they're due for W. I see it as a trend bound to continue.
Chances Miami Loses vs. Atlanta: 35 percent
This one could be more interesting than the records at the time will suggest.
Miami will be playing the second game of a back-to-back, and traveling from sunny South Beach to the City of Brotherly Love immediately following their game against the Hawks.
Playing two games in two nights is nothing new for Miami's finest (especially after the lockout-truncated season), but we'd be remiss if we didn't admit that levels the playing field slightly. It also doesn't hurt that the Sixers currently are above .500 (17-15) when playing at home.
Interestingly enough, though, of the Heat's 14 losses, only two have come on the tail-end of a back-to-back.
Having (likely) already beaten Philly twice by this point, you have favor the Heat outright in this one as well.
Chances Miami Loses at Philly: 35 percent
The Milwaukee Bucks are just one of those teams that seems to give the Heat problems.
I don't if they're too perplexed by Monta Ellis' shot selection to channel their usual killer instinct or what, Milwaukee is just a tough beat for the Heat.
Coming into this one, the season series is tied at one game apiece. In their previous meeting, also in Milwaukee, the Bucks carved up Miami to the tune of a 19-point victory.
With most opponents, I'd toss such a performance up to an isolated incident (and maybe it was), but it also took the Heat an extra quarter to emerge victorious at home against the Bucks back in November.
To complicate this matter further, Milwaukee now has the sharpshooting stylings of J.J. Redick to bring off the bench. Larry Sanders is also receiving more minutes and blocking more shots than Chris Andersen has tattoos.
Playing the way they have of late, you want to take the Heat. You want to be certain they'll contain a now surging Ellis and that Birdman will make third-year dinner out of Sanders.
But you can't be certain, you can only assume. And while common sense imply we still favor the Heat, we must remember the Bucks have been one of their toughest covers the past two seasons.
Chances Miami Loses at Milwaukee: 45 percent
Miami has already beaten the Toronto Raptors twice, one of those victories coming after the Rudy Gay trade.
While the Heat are familiar with this version of the Raptors, though, you can't really count Toronto out. Miami was pushed to overtime by a Rudy Gay-less Raptors squad earlier in the year, and they've only become more formidable a pull with him in the lineup (despite what their record suggests).
With that in mind, I don't see this being one of the games that gets away from the Heat.
Toronto is in the middle of the pack in just about every statistical category, and while it is built to run on offense with Miami, its defense was not concocted with the Heat's transition attack in mind.
I'm calling for a blowout in this one.
Chances Miami Loses in Toronto: 25 percent
Sans Rajon Rondo, Leandro Barbosa (injured and traded) and Jared Sullinger, the Celtics should be a pushover. But they're not.
Boston has managed to climb its way into the Eastern Conference's seventh spot and has been a dominant force at home (21-9).
The Heat are aware of all this, though. They've already lost to the Rondo-less Celtics once. It took Boston two overtimes to do it, but a win is a win.
And this particular game doesn't exactly scream "win" for the Heat.
It will be their fourth consecutive game on the road and they'll be facing a Celtics team that has spent their last three games playing the Charlotte Bobcats (twice) and Raptors.
As is the case with every opponent the Heat face, if they play their game, they're going to win.
Facing a resilient Celtics squad in front of an onslaught of devout Boston fans, though, we must place an emphasis on "if."
Chances Miami Loses in Boston: 50 percent
Broken record style, the Heat's winning streak is going to end at some point.
As for whether it ceases over the next eight games, I'm going to predict a half-hearted yes.
Though I could easily see Miami winning these contests, matchups against the Pacers, Celtics and even Bucks are worrisome. That the bouts against Milwaukee and Boston come on the road isn't exactly a source of comfort either.
The Celtics and Bucks have each beaten the Heat at once this year, and Indiana has done so twice. This doesn't necessarily guarantee Miami falls to any of them, but it does mean the Heat are facing teams who have exploited them before.
The good news?
A loss against the Pacers doesn't seem to be in the cards. Not at home and certainly not the way the Heat are currently faring.
Milwaukee also seems like a long-shot, too. Brandon Jennings' congregation has been a nightmare opponent for Miami recently, but it normally takes a slew of out-of-character performances to make it so.
Which leaves the Celtics. The Rondo-less Celtics, who remain one of the most dangerous teams in the league.
They're one of the best teams of the league at controlling the pace of the game and still pose one of the most threatening tangos the Heat will see.
Still brimming with hope in the absence of their best player, the Celtics, at home, are the team with the best shot at ending the Heat's reign of perfection.
Prediction: Boston stops Miami's win streak at 22.