Odds Miami Heat Run the Table in Regular Season
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It's 27 down, 12 to go, but the odds are still against the Miami Heat extending their winning streak through the end of the regular season.
Before LeBron James and company began their assault at the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers' historic run, the Heat were just 29-14. That record was still good for first place in the Eastern Conference, but it has been marginalized by the otherworldly play Miami has since unleashed upon the league.
In seven games, the Heat could break the all-time record with 34 consecutive wins—but could they go even further?
By breaking down Miami's odds of winning each of its remaining games, we can see that it has a very real chance of running the table, but sustaining streaks like this requires a large amount of luck.
For this exercise, we'll give the Heat a 90 percent chance of winning any given game—home or away, regardless of opponent.
That figure comes from some very basic math: 100 percent (Miami's winning percentage over the streak) times 80 percent (Miami's winning percentage for the full season) equals 90 percent.
When we take individual teams into account—like any attempt at predicting the future—this is going to get more subjective.
March 27 at Chicago Bulls: 85 percent
Just as the Miami Heat have been on a tear, the Chicago Bulls have struggled over their last 27. With Derrick Rose still on the bench and heavy workloads taking a toll on key contributors, the Bulls have gone 12-15 over that stretch.
Tom Thibodeau's defense could shut down any team on any given night, but the Heat have the bodies to bang with Chicago in the paint and the shooters to beat the Bulls from beyond the arc.
But with Dwyane Wade on the back-end of a day-to-day knee bruise and the game at the United Center, this game is slightly tougher than average, reeling Bulls and all.
March 29 at New Orleans Hornets: 95 percent
The New Orleans Hornets have won three straight at home against playoff-bound teams, but this is still a team that has won just 25 games this season and only 10 of its last 27.
It's no surprise that the future Pelicans are capable of pulling off upsets. With Eric Gordon, Greivis Vasquez and a deep, athletic frontcourt, New Orleans has the pieces to challenge contenders.
What it lacks is the refinement to win consistently. This is a young, raw opponent for the Heat, who will have ample opportunity to break out in transition against the overmatched Hornets.
March 31 at San Antonio Spurs: 55 percent
This is the one NBA fans have their eyes on: The San Antonio Spurs are standing between the Heat and 30 straight wins.
Gregg Popovich drew the league's ire the last time these teams met, holding out four major contributors—Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green—but very nearly pulling out the win.
The Spurs have gone on to prove that their second unit's performance against Miami was no fluke. It'll be ready for the rematch in San Antonio—with the four absentees prepared to make an impact this time around.
Miami has to get the benefit of the doubt here—but on the road against the best in the West, anything could happen.
April 2 vs. New York Knicks: 75 percent
The New York Knicks have weathered injuries as well as anyone in the league this season, but they're going to have problems being shorthanded against Miami.
With Amar'e Stoudemire sidelined, New York is down a scorer, and it hasn't produced the same amount of open looks for three as it did when it torched the Heat twice earlier in the year. When Steve Novak or Chris Copeland is on the floor to help the offense, Miami will target them relentlessly on the other end.
This should be Miami's easiest game against the Knicks, but remember that Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith are on the other side. New York always has a chance if these two bring their A-game.
April 5 at Charlotte Bobcats: 98 percent
Miami has won 13 road games during its current streak. The Charlotte Bobcats have won 10 home games the entire season.
We're done here.
April 6 vs. Philadelphia 76ers: 90 percent
Don't confuse this game for a back-to-back trap.
For one thing, the Heat will likely exert themselves minimally in Charlotte, saving their strength for their second game in as many days.
Luckily for them, they return home to face the Philadelphia 76ers—a team that pushed Miami recently, but lacks the firepower to be too serious of a threat.
Jrue Holiday and Thaddeus Young both match up nicely against the Heat, but unless Evan Turner knocks down a bunch of threes, this conversation is a nonstarter.
April 9 vs. Milwaukee Bucks: 80 percent
When they have their act together, the Milwaukee Bucks have a blend of players who could give the Heat fits.
Between Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis and J.J. Redick, the Bucks' backcourt has the ability to light up the scoreboard. That could be tricky for the Heat, who prefer to sic LeBron or Shane Battier on a wing rather than chase guards—particularly if they have plans to ease Wade through the season's end.
On the defensive end, Larry Sanders is a difference-making post presence who could deter the Heat's drives to the hoop. With the league's leading shot-blocker hounding the rim, the Heat would be forced to live and die by the three ball.
Fortunately, Milwaukee's perimeter D is no great strength, so the Heat could certainly get by with jumpers. If the Heat can't stay in front of the guards, though, the Deer could run wild.
April 10 at Washington Wizards: 70 percent
This one is the real trap: Miami is traveling to face John Wall and the Washington Wizards with no rest.
With Wall averaging 23.8 points and 9.0 assists on 56 percent shooting over his last 10 games, he's exactly the kind of explosive point guard who could exploit the Heat defense. Mario Chalmers is a fine defender, but he's not good enough to consistently check a player like Wall.
Miami will have a lot of difficulties stopping Wall from getting into the teeth of the defense. That will leave the perimeter exposed and will open lanes for Nene to make cuts around the rim.
The Heat shouldn't have much difficulty attacking Washington's defense. Even so, the style of play that has Washington playing winning ball since Wall's return gives the Wiz a better shot at toppling Miami than you might think.
April 12 vs. Boston Celtics: 80 percent
April 14 vs. Chicago Bulls: 80 percent
At this late date in the season, resting up for the playoffs is going to be a high priority. Miami's advantage is that it will be of greater import for its opponents.
We've already been over the Bulls' issues this season; it would be better to cut Luol Deng and Joakim Noah some slack here rather than run them out for 40 more minutes against LeBron James.
The Boston Celtics have to be even more concerned about keeping Kevin Garnett fresh. When he's not on the floor, Boston can't stop anyone from getting easy shots inside. He needs to be as close to fully healthy as possible if the Celtics want to do anything in the postseason.
So even if LeBron, Wade or Chris Bosh get some extra rest here, the Heat are still in good position to play through it.
April 15 at Cleveland Cavaliers: 95 percent
On one hand, there's the matter of rest on a back-to-back on the road. Wade and Bosh will surely see restricted minutes in a game that matters negligibly.
On the other, LeBron James is definitely going to play. It's the Cleveland Cavaliers, the game is in Cleveland and there's too much history between them for him to be a no-show.
Tack onto that the Cavs' injury woes and the fact that Kyrie Irving could be shut down by that point, and the Heat shouldn't sweat the quick turnaround.
April 17 vs. Orlando Magic: 80 percent
You might think the Orlando Magic—who have been a nuisance for the Miami this season—could trip the Heat up at the end, but this Miami team cares too much about history.
The Heat won't want to battle Nikola Vucevic inside or chase around Orlando's young wings, but they know that completing the season-ending win streak would be more memorable than repeating as world champions.
Orlando will push Miami as it has all year, but the Heat won't sit back and take it. Expect the Heat to shoot to finish strong.
Odds of Running the Table: Eight percent
Statistical probability is not Miami's friend in this case.
Even though the Heat should be favored in each of their games—they're the best team in the NBA right now, after all—multiply all those odds together and you get just an eight percent chance that they win out.
That this team has by far the best odds of sweeping the remainder of its schedule is a testament to how monumental the accomplishment of winning 27 straight is. No matter when the Heat's streak ends, they already deserve to be celebrated for what they have done.
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