Corey Brewer and the Denver Nuggets somehow erased an eight-point deficit in the final two minutes to steal a 101-100 win against the Philadelphia 76ers Thursday night, yet the victory—Denver's 14th in a row—seemed a lot like the Nuggets' incredible streak as a whole: Hardly anybody noticed.
Even after the dust had settled and everyone watching realized that Brewer had scored six points in the final 14.3 seconds, including a trio of free throws after a highly debatable shooting foul with just 2.1 ticks remaining, it still didn't seem like Denver's 14th straight win had really happened.
Some might call it a fluke, while others have been inclined to chalk it up to the craziness associated with the season:
In case you missed it, Nuggets extend win streak in Heat-like fashion. Trail Sixers by 8 w/1:52 left & win by a point. Madness indeed!— Amy Lawrence (@ALawRadio) March 22, 2013
Madness aside, one thing's clear: The Nuggets' streak deserves more attention.
Part of the explanation for the under-the-radar nature of Denver's run obviously has to do with the Miami Heat's historic string of wins, which currently exceeds the Nuggets' by 10 full games. Just about the only time it's easy to overlook a 14-game streak is when there's also a 24-gamer in progress by the defending NBA champs.
Heat streak overshadowing Denver. But Nuggets on great run, too. Not sure there's a harder back2back 2 win than Chi-OKC— Michael Wallace (@WallaceNBA_ESPN) March 20, 2013
What's interesting, though, is that on a pound-for-pound basis, Denver's achievement stacks up pretty favorably with Miami's.
According to NBA.com, the Nuggets have posted an offensive rating of 111.1 and a defensive rating of 98.7 since Feb. 23, meaning they've been 12.3 points per 100 possessions better than their opponents during their run.
The Heat's 113 offensive rating, coupled with their 100.1 defensive rating, means they've been about 12.9 points per 100 possessions better than their opponents in their streak.
All things being equal, the numbers show that Miami has only been slightly more dominant than the Nuggets. But in fact, all things aren't equal.
Denver has faced eight playoff teams in the 14 games comprising its streak, whereas Miami has played 12 playoff teams in 24. The Heat's raw number of playoff opponents is higher, but the Nuggets have played a larger percentage of their contests against stronger competition.
In addition, perhaps you've heard that the Heat boast a pretty star-laden roster. LeBron James has ascended to unquestioned status as the league's best player, while Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have both played more efficiently than at any point in either of their respective careers.
By way of contrast, Denver lacks a nationally recognizable star and instead relies on a collection of very good but not great players to get the job done.
Without James (or possibly even Wade or Bosh), there's no way Miami pushes its streak to 24 games. But Denver has played without Ty Lawson, Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari in parts of its run.
Ultimately, it's impossible to overlook the fact that Miami's streak is 10 games longer than Denver's is. That fact alone makes the Heat's accomplishment more noteworthy, mostly because streaks are only as impressive as their lengths.
That's sort of how streaks work.
But it doesn't seem to justify the relative obscurity in which Denver has been toiling.
From coach George Karl's perspective, the lack of recognition is actually a good thing. Teams love to sneak up on their opponents, and with the playoffs approaching, Karl's Nuggets are still somehow poised to do just that.
Coach George Karl on #Nuggets streak being overshadowed by Miami Heat winning 24 in a row: "That's fine with me."— Denver Nuggets (@denvernuggets) March 22, 2013
If the Heat stumble and Denver continues its incredible surge, it'll be impossible to keep ignoring the Nuggets' accomplishments. For now, though, one of the NBA's quietest winning streaks just keeps rolling on in relative silence.