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Game-by-Game Breakdown of Miami Heat's Odds to Top Lakers' 33-Game Win Streak

Zach BuckleyNational NBA Featured ColumnistMarch 19, 2013

Game-by-Game Breakdown of Miami Heat's Odds to Top Lakers' 33-Game Win Streak

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    The Boston Celtics pushed the Miami Heat for everything they had, but even a career-high 43 points from Jeff Green couldn't keep the Celtics from being anything more than victim No. 23.

    With Kevin Garnett forced into a spectator's role (via Gary Dzen of the Boston Globe), the Celtics fell just short in their bid to stop the streak.

    LeBron James led the Heat with 37 points, none more important than his game-winning jumper with 10 seconds left in regulation. In typical MVP fashion, he padded his stat line with a game-high 12 assists and tied for the team lead with seven rebounds.

    Dwyane Wade added 16 points, seven rebounds and six assists, five of which came in the fourth quarter. Mario Chalmers poured in 21 points—the fourth time he's dropped at least 20 in a game this season.

    On the defensive side of the ball, four different Heat players chipped in with game-saving plays. Chris Bosh and Chalmers both swatted away layup attempts in the game's final minute. Shane Battier made the defensive play of the year, stripping Jeff Green's layup attempt out of bounds with eight seconds remaining in a two-point game.

    And then there was James, who fought through a Jason Terry screen to contest what would have been a game-winning three from Paul Pierce in the game's final second.

    It was a back-and-forth battle throughout the night, as the Heat dug themselves in a 17-point hole with Wade plagued by foul trouble in the early going.

    Still, it was the same outcome as it has been for the better part of the past two months: 23 games and 23 wins to show for them. With 10 victories standing between the Heat and the record books—the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers won a league-best 33 consecutive games—just how close is Miami to making history?

    Bill Sharman, head coach of those record-setting Lakers, said it is "certainly a possibility" that the Heat can break his team's record (according to Chris Tomasson of Fox Sports Florida).

    Just how much of a possibility? Well, I'm glad you asked.

March 20 at Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Opponent's Record: 22-45

    Season Series: 2-0 Miami

     

    The Heat don't exactly face murderer's row over the next week:

    The Heat's next four opponents have an average win percentage of .288. Expect The Streak to hit 27.

    — chris palmer (@ESPNChrisPalmer) March 19, 2013


    Of course, the Heat haven't been immune to letting lesser clubs hang around longer than they should. But while their overlooking nature doesn't usually cost them victories (they have lost just three games to teams with losing records), it's not exactly a quality that thrills coach Eri
    k Spoelstra.

    On the surface, this has all the makings of a letdown game: two days removed from an emotional come-from-behind win over a rival, facing an opponent they should overwhelm.

    In reality, though, this couldn't have been scheduled any better for the Heat. Any emotion lost in the Celtics' win should be more than compensated for by James' return to his former home.

    The final score might not be what you would expect (the Heat have won the previous two meetings by a total of six points) but don't expect the result to change. Don't forget that Kyrie Irving is out until at least early April with an injured shoulder.

     

    Chance That the Heat Win: 95 percent

March 22 vs. Detroit Pistons

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    Opponent's Record: 23-46

    Season Series: Tied 1-1

     

    One of those previously mentioned three bad losses came against this Pistons team back on Dec. 28. Detroit thrilled its home crowd with a 109-99 win, thanks in large part to a 64-20 point advantage in bench scoring.

    Wade missed the game due to suspension, and Miami struggled to find a third wheel to support the 63 points put up by James and Bosh.

    If the Heat were going to overlook any opponent on its schedule, the Pistons might be the most obvious choice. They're the league's anti-Heat right now, sputtering through a league-worst nine straight losses.

    And if the Pistons hadn't already beaten the Heat this season, that just might happen.

    But Miami's overwhelming talent advantage and desire to exact revenge should have this game looking more like the team's second meeting—a 110-88 point rout by the Heat.

     

    Chance That the Heat Win: 90 percent

March 24 vs. Charlotte Bobcats

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    Opponent's Record: 15-52

    Season Series: 2-0 Miami

     

    The futility continues as the American Airlines Arena faithful will follow the league's coldest clubs by welcoming its worst team.

    If the Heat played the Bobcats 10 times, I'd put Miami down for 11 wins; the talent gap is that decisive.

    Charlotte did push Miami at home to a five-point game in the second win of this streak back on Feb. 4, but that game also came a day after a road match with the Toronto Raptors and a flight back to South Florida so the team could watch the Super Bowl before leaving (via Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel).

    There's no need to make this prediction any harder than it needs to be. The Bobcats have the league's worst field-goal percentage (41.7), and the Heat have a top-10 field-goal defense (44.1).

     

    Chance That the Heat Win: 95 percent

March 25 at Orlando Magic

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    Opponent's Record: 18-49

    Season Series: 2-0 Miami

     

    The Heat won't have the most excited player for this game, even with the team surging ahead on their historical run.

    No, that honor would fall to Magic big man Nikola Vucevic. The second-year center has used two games against the defending champs to bolster his growing stock around the league, averaging a staggering 27.5 points and 25.0 rebounds.

    Strengthened by their interior play, the Magic have come frighteningly close to stealing a victory from their in-state rival. Orlando dropped a two-point overtime loss to Miami at home on New Year's Eve, then nearly played the role of spoiler in a crushing one-point road loss courtesy of James' late-game heroics.

    Vucevic may well win another matchup with Bosh, but his perimeter teammates won't find the same success against Miami's talent-laden wings.

     

    Chance That the Heat Win: 80 percent

March 27 at Chicago Bulls

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    Opponent's Record: 36-30

    Season Series: Tied 1-1

     

    Chicago's the big "what if" team in the Eastern Conference postseason picture. As in, "what if Derrick Rose were healthy?"

    Of course, Rose isn't healthy, or at least not yet mentally prepared to test his body in an NBA game (via Nick Friedell of ESPN Chicago).

    But that fact alone doesn't keep Chicago from being Miami's next true test.

    Coach Tom Thibodeau's team is scrappy—a strong threat to turn the tide of a game on a rebound in traffic here or a loose ball corralled there. The Bulls are also the last opponent to wrestle away a win on Miami's home court in a 96-89 victory back on Jan. 4.

    But there's still an edge leaning in Miami's favor. The Bulls might have two All-Stars (Luol Deng and Joakim Noah), but the Heat have two bona fide superstars (James and Wade) and a third All-Star in Bosh. 

    The way these teams defend (both rank in the top eight in field-goal defense) will make this a purist's dream and a casual fan's nightmare. It also means that both teams will be forced into manufacturing clutch points—something that should come much easier to the Heat given their superior offensive firepower.

     

    Chance That the Heat Win: 70 percent

March 29 at New Orleans Hornets

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    Opponent's Record: 22-46

    Season Series: 1-0 Miami

     

    This is a trap game if I've ever seen one.

    The third game in a four-game road trip with a very beatable opponent nestled in between two perennial powerhouses.

    Anthony Davis and Robin Lopez can bring a physicality to the interior that the Heat may have trouble matching. Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon and Greivis Vasquez all have the potency to expose a lackluster defensive effort.

    Of course, there may also be a desire to put this game away early, so Spoelstra can rest his regulars for a daunting matchup in the club's next game. It might be the kind of feeling capable of sparking something like the game-changing 33-15 second-quarter edge the Heat found in their first matchup.

    As long as Miami stays engaged (at least long enough to give the starters a break), the team shouldn't have too many problems putting this one away. 

     

    Chance That the Heat Win: 80 percent

March 31 at San Antonio Spurs

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    Opponent's Record: 51-16

    Season Series: 1-0 Miami

     

    Assuming the Heat are still streaking at this point, they will know that this is the toughest game standing between them and the vaunted consecutive-wins record. It would also give Miami the chance to become just the second team in league history with a 30-plus game-winning streak to its credit.

    But don't overlook the motivation factor for the Spurs here. Tight-lipped Spurs coach Gregg Popovich would never admit it, but a streak-busting win over the defending champs could do wonders for this team's under-the-radar national standing.

    It would also be a nice pick-me-up for the aging Spurs to topple a Heat team that has now disposed of San Antonio's greatest Western Conference threat, the Oklahoma City Thunder, in six straight meetings.

    The last time these teams met, San Antonio left Miami with a close loss and a hefty $250,000 fine (via ESPN). This time around, the Spurs will have Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green in the fold. 

    Whether or not they have Tony Parker back—the point guard is currently sidelined with an ankle injury—could mean the difference in this game.

     

    Chance That the Heat Win: 50 percent

April 2 vs. New York Knicks

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    Opponent's Record: 38-26

    Season Series: 2-1 New York

     

    The Knicks are one of just two teams (along with the Indiana Pacers) to hang two defeats on the Heat this season. And both of New York's victories came by 20-point margins at that.

    But a lot has changed since the Knicks' last win over the Heat, which came back on Dec. 6. The Heat have pushed more than 10 games clear of any rivals in the Eastern Conference standings. The Knicks, meanwhile, have slipped to third in the East and are now just two games away from losing home-court advantage for their first-round matchup.

    Even with the Knicks slumping, though, this is a statement game for the Heat. If Miami has any potential postseason roadblocks left out East, New York has to be considered a part of that group.

    Carmelo Anthony's going to get his points regardless of who's defending him. If J.R. Smith or any of the Knicks' other long-range threats catch fire, the Knicks could play the role of spoiler. 

     

    Chance That the Heat Win: 75 percent

April 5 at Charlotte Bobcats

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    Opponent's Record: 15-52

    Season Series: 2-0 Miami

     

    Finally a breather, right? 

    After facing the Bulls, Spurs and Knicks in three of their last four games, the Heat get another crack at the lowly Bobcats.

    The Heat will seriously be smelling blood at this point. A win in Charlotte would guarantee the Heat the chance to play for a record-tying 33rd straight win.

    You can make a case for at least one player on any one of the teams on this list going nuts and disrupting Miami's run. Well, one player on any team other than the Bobcats.

    The Heat would almost have to try to lose this game.

     

    Chance That the Heat Win: 90 percent

April 6 vs. Philadelphia 76ers

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    Opponent's Record: 26-40

    Season Series: 3-0 Miami

     

    If you're sick of all of the coverage the streak is getting, imagine how the Sixers feel.

    The only thing breaking up coverage of the Heat's run has been the news that Sixers center Andrew Bynum is now officially out for the season (via Jason Wolf of USA Today).

    And coach Doug Collins' team has had firsthand exposure to this run: The Sixers were on the wrong end of the Heat's wins No. 10, 17 and 20. Philly has improved the margin of victory in each of the three matchups, but still hold a minus-9.0 scoring differential in this series.

    Maybe Philadelphia can take pride in the fact that this season will put them in the record books. It won't be the lengthy playoff run they envisioned when they rolled the dice on Bynum, but they would be victim No. 33 in a potential record-tying effort for Miami.

     

    Chance That the Heat Win: 90 percent

April 9 vs. Milwaukee Bucks

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    Opponent's Record: 33-32

    Season Series: 2-1 Miami

     

    The Bucks were a trendy pick to disrupt the Heat's streak when the two teams met on March 15. The reasons behind the sentiment rested heavily on Milwaukee's 2-1 record in the teams' last three meetings, with its only loss coming in an overtime loss in South Beach earlier this season.

    The trade deadline acquisition of J.J. Redick gave Milwaukee another scoring threat to complement its high-powered backcourt of Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings. Any one of these players packed a big enough offensive punch to shoot the Bucks into a close game, and if either (or both) of the two caught fire, the Bucks could run away with a win.

    Of course, that failed to capture the newfound momentum accompanying Miami's charge up the record books or the Heat's ability to frustrate opposing shooters with swarming defenders.

    When the teams finally took the court that night, the Heat breezed to a comfortable 107-94 win.

    With the chance to earn sole possession of the league's longest winning streak ever, this matchup would be even more one-sided.

     

    Chance That the Heat Win: 95 percent

Can Miami Break the Record?

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    With each victory added to their resume, the Heat have started to acknowledge the historical significance attached to their magical run. Well, at least as much as they can in the cliched "one-game-at-a-time" mantra (via Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com).

    Of the 11 games sitting between Miami and the record books, only four pit them against playoff-caliber teams. The consensus in the early days of this streak was that it would come to an end in a game that Miami had no business losing. Now that the Heat can see the light at the end of the tunnel, though, it's growing increasingly difficult to see them giving away that type of game to derail the streak.

    Those two road games with Chicago and San Antonio and the home game with New York are the three biggest threats right now. I've got Miami as the favorite in two, with the Spurs-Heat game as a toss-up.

    There are challenges left for Spoelstra's squad to conquer. But as they've shown over these past 23 games, they've got more than a puncher's chance to meet the challenge of their opposition over these next 11 games.

     

    Chance that the Heat Break the Record: 35 percent

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