How Long Can Miami Heat Streak Last?
With their 107-94 win over the Milwaukee Bucks, the Miami Heat won their 21st straight game, leaving them one game behind the 2008 Houston Rockets for the second-longest winning streak in NBA history.
So how long will we go before seeing another Heat loss?
On Feb. 1 the Heat lost to the Indiana Pacers as they fell to 29-14. A month-and-a-half later, they're 50-14. It's been nothing short of amazing.
In 21 games, they've beaten the Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Oklahoma City Thunder, Atlanta Hawks (twice), Chicago Bulls, Memphis Grizzlies, New York Knicks, Pacers and Bucks.
That's 11 wins over playoff teams in 21 games, with only the San Antonio Spurs left off the list of top-tier opponents.
With that type of consistent, high-level play, which opponent in their future has any realistic chance of taking them down?
One of the most intriguing things about this streak is that Miami has consistently picked up its intensity level when playing against better teams—or rather, when playing against teams that have beaten the Heat at some point this season.
During their 21-game win streak, the Heat have avenged 7 losses to teams that beat them before the streak started.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 16, 2013
The closest any playoff team came to beating Miami was six points against both Houston and New York. Otherwise, the Heat registered double-digit wins over the likes of the Clippers, Lakers, Thunder, Hawks (twice), Bulls, Pacers and Bucks.
Miami has had the toughest road to victory against subpar teams that have looked at a win over the Heat as one that could define their season. The Charlotte Bobcats, Cleveland Cavaliers, Sacramento Kings, Orlando Magic and Philadelphia 76ers all proved tough challenges, but not tough enough in the end.
All five of those teams were able to exploit a singular weakness that the Heat showed here and there throughout the first few months of the season: the tendency to play down to their opponent.
Miami was the first team to lose to the Washington Wizards this season, and fell to the Detroit Pistons and Portland Trail Blazers over the next few months. The Heat should never lose to those teams on paper, but they had (and still have) a tendency to take quarters off.
The only difference between then and now is that Miami has been able to come through in the end consistently, turning on the afterburners just in time to pull out a victory.
With that in mind, it seems most likely that Miami's next loss will come against a mid-to-low-level team, although a loss to an elite team would be far from surprising.
Miami could theoretically run its streak to 39 games if it won the rest of its games this season, which seems highly unlikely.
Taking a look at their next handful of games, it seems impossible that the Heat lose either of the next two. The second-longest streak is in their grasp, and letting that slip past isn't something that will happen easily.
Win No. 24 will come in a hostile environment against the Cleveland Cavaliers, but without Kyrie Irving, there's not a huge threat. Miami's following two games come at home against Detroit and Charlotte, which are pushovers at this point.
Miami's following road trip will be the most interesting to watch, as all four games are potential losses.
March 25 against the Magic is a tough one, as Orlando has played Miami twice this season, losing by two in December and by one during the current Heat streak.
March 27 against the Bulls is going to be a grinder of a game, with Derrick Rose potentially involved, and March 29 is another potential slip-up against the New Orleans Hornets and their stellar three-point shooting.
Finally, Miami ends the road trip with a March 31 faceoff against San Antonio.
If you recall, the Heat struggled to beat San Antonio at home earlier in the season, even though the Spurs were without Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green. This will be the ultimate test of their streak, should it still stand at this point.
It is inevitable that the Heat fall before the end of the month. Keeping this level of awareness for this extended period seems exhausting, and a loss or two before the playoffs could be downright humbling.
Aside from the fact that they may need to remember what a loss tastes like before getting into the playoffs, they may also need an excuse to rest their players on any given day, something made immensely harder if they're busy chasing the 1972 Los Angeles Lakers' 33-game winning streak.
The Spurs made a similar run last season, and even had it spill over into the playoffs, winning 20 games in a row. However, once they stumbled, Oklahoma City jumped on hard and beat them in four straight games.
Basketball can have its peaks and valleys, and while Miami's peaks are vast and its valleys are mere potholes, peaking at the right time can definitely have an advantage. Something tells me that mid-March isn't the best peaking time.
The Heat have plenty of proof that they're the league's best team up to this point. Piling more wins on would be impressive, but a loss before the end of the month might actually do them some good.
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