Is This the Best Miami Heat Basketball of the LeBron James Era?
I could point you to the 22-game win streak itself and call it a day. Setting up shop next to the 2007-08. Houston Rockets and 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers as the only three teams in NBA history to win 22 or more games in a row should be enough. Tying that same Houston team for the second-longest win streak in league history would normally suffice.
Except nothing about this Heat team is normal. Or even close to it.
Since James joined Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in their pursuit of a dynasty, the Heat are 155-48, posting an offensive rating of 110.4 (fourth) and a defensive rating of 102.7 (also fourth). They're averaging 101.3 points a game (sixth) and allowing 94.3 (fourth). They've also outscored opponents by an average of 6.98 points a game, shot an NBA-best 48.2 percent from the floor and held opponents to 44.3 percent shooting (fourth).
Oh, and they've won a title as well. Can't forget that.
What we also can't forget is that they've never played the kind of basketball they have now.
Prior to the Heat's current 22-game stretch, their longest winning streak in the LeBron era lasted 12 games. Presently, they are on course to more than double that. And what they've done over those 22 games has been incredible.
Miami is scoring 105.3 points and allowing just 93.9 heading into the team's contest against the Toronto Raptors. The Heat are outscoring opponents by 11.4 points per contest over the winning streak, shooting a league-best 50.8 percent from the field and holding opponents to 44.6 percent shooting.
An enormous difference?
On the surface, no. Given that they've sustained such a pace for more than a month, though, yes.
This is a historic run the Heat are on. The franchise has never seen anything better, and certainly nothing that exceeds it during the James era.
LeBron himself has hardly seen better days. Sure, he's broken a number of records only this season, but he's enjoying some of the most prosperous basketball of his career over this stretch.
Since Miami last lost, James is averaging 26.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, 7.4 assists and 1.8 steals on 57.5 percent shooting per game. Of course, this just toes along the lines of his already unprecedented season, yet his historic accolades are a part of this year.
He's on pace to become the first player in NBA history to average at least 25 points, eight rebounds and seven assists per game on 55 percent or better shooting. It doesn't get nor has it ever been any better than that for LeBron or even the Heat.
Watch the Heat after the final buzzer sounds and their conduct says it all. There's nothing but smiles and incessant video-bombs on their side of the floor. They're acting in a borderline carefree way we haven't seen before because they're reaching heights they haven't touched before.
Not before LeBron, and certainly not since he took his talents to the busier streets of South Beach.
This is a new breed of Miami basketball. The Heat are currently housing a Big Three that has spent the last two-plus years engaging in trial-and-error discourse, only to have perfected it now, in time to challenge the 1971-72 Lakers for the longest winning streak in NBA history.
Tell me, how is it supposed to get better that in the regular season? How is it supposed to have been better than that previously?
Remember, Miami isn't just challenging league records. This current faction is also breaking franchise records.
The Heat's longest winning streak until this season was 14 games. Now it's 22. And counting.
Is this the best version of the LeBron James-led Heat we have ever seen?
We're bearing witness to the best Heat convocation Miami has ever fielded, and at the heart of that is the most dominant player in the league in LeBron, who's playing the best basketball of his career.
Again, has it ever been any better than that?
Not in Miami. Ever. Even for this version of South Beach's finest.
Will it ever be any better than that?
The scary truth is yes, it may. This team is talented and familiar enough to accomplish anything, unlike any other Heat (NBA team?) before them.
That, in itself, says all we need hear.
*All stats used in this article were compiled from Basketball-Reference, Synergy Sports and 82games.com unless otherwise noted, and are accurate as of March 17, 2013.
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