After a regular season for the ages, the Miami Heat now looks to defend its title as NBA champions. Miami currently holds a 1-0 series lead over the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
With that being said, this Heat season will be one to remember for years to come for countless reasons.
There was, of course, the 27 game win-streak. LeBron James did the unthinkable and brought his game to new heights. Dwyane Wade looked revitalized, giving Heat fans a heavy dose of nostalgia with his best season on paper in years.
These were just a few of the ingredients that combined to create one of the more memorable regular seasons in league history. Today, we’re going to take a look back at the five most memorable games of the Heat’s wildly successful regular season campaign.
At this point, Miami was just beginning to get the ball rolling on their historic win-streak as they journeyed into Oklahoma City for a Finals rematch.
Kevin Durant’s squad may not have defeated the Heat and its big three since Game 1 last June, but the matchup still carried plenty of intrigue as Miami and Oklahoma City were again separating themselves as the elite of the association.
The Heat had won six straight and Durant was hot on the trail behind LeBron James in the Most Valuable Player race.
And with all eyes on them, Miami emphatically made one of the many statements they managed to pack into that famous streak of 27 straight wins. The Heat didn’t just win on the Thunder’s floor, they did so easily.
Miami rode James’ 39 points, 12 boards and seven dimes en route to its 110-100 victory over Oklahoma City, despite Durant’s late push that allowed him to reach the 40-point mark for the evening. The win also marked the Heat's sixth straight over the Thunder, dating back to last year's Finals.
Not having lost since February 1st and having overcome the likes of the Thunder, Lakers, Clippers and Bulls, the Heat likely didn’t view the Sacramento Kings as a formidable threat to end its then-current win-streak of 11 games.
However, Marcus Thornton and the Kings didn’t exactly get the notice to lie down for the defending champs.
Instead, Thornton exploded for 36 points off the bench, DeMarcus Cousins grabbed 15 boards and Tyreke Evans added 26 points of his own. Behind all of that, Sacramento pushed Miami to the brink.
The Kings forced the game to not one, but two overtimes before James and Wade willed the Heat to its 12th straight victory, topping Sacramento 141-129.
The double-overtime game was also one of LeBron James’ most impressive works of the year, as the Heat forward finished with 40 points, eight rebounds and 16 assists. And don’t forget about Dwyane Wade, who managed to record 39 points on 19-of-28 shooting from the field, as well as eight rebounds and seven assists.
Just days after the Chicago Bulls ruined Miami’s shot at breaking the Lakers’ record of 33 straight wins, the Heat ventured out west for a showdown with the San Antonio Spurs. Each team had the best record in their respective conferences and many were stating the obvious, calling the game a possible Finals preview.
In the end, though, the match up wasn’t quite able to live up to that hype, as the Heat announced Mario Chalmers, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade would all be sitting for the showdown.
Remember, the Spurs committed a similar act the first time these two met back in November. San Antonio head coach Greg Popovich elected to send Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli and Danny Green home on a commercial flight instead of playing them against Miami.
And the Spurs’ organization paid for that decision, as Commissioner David Stern slapped the club with a whopping fine of $250,000.
Miami did defeat San Antonio in that early season meeting, but only by a margin of five points.
Critics argued the Heat should’ve been disciplined in a similar manner for sitting three of its starters in this matchup, but there was ultimately no action taken by Stern and the NBA. In Miami’s defense, there does tend to be a certain nuance late in the NBA season that permits teams that have already clinched a playoff berth to rest its players if it desires.
Regardless of if the move was right or not, the Heat still managed to come away with a win in thrilling fashion, defeating San Antonio by a score of 88-86. Chris Bosh led the way for Miami, dropping 23 points on 9-of-15 shooting—including the game winning bucket from three-point-land in the final seconds.
After a stretch of games against opponents like Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Toronto, Miami headed into Boston for a game that fans everywhere had circled on their calendars as the Heat’s winning streak continued to approach history.
The Garden has long been a difficult arena for opponents to enter and the Heat have certainly been no exception. Plus, it was just about five years ago that the Celtics ended Houston’s winning streak at 22 games, which happened to be the same number Miami was riding after their most recent win over Toronto.
And for much of the first half, it looked like the Celtics, even without Kevin Garnett, might have been on their way to claiming the title of streak busters yet again.
Boston’s Jeff Green put on a scoring clinic all night, racking up 43 points as Miami seemingly had no answer for the forward’s hot hand. The Heat even trailed by 17 at one point in the first half.
LeBron James and the Heat, however, had no intentions on allowing the short-handed Celtics to be the ones who ended their run.
Instead, the Heat came out firing in the second half. Miami outscored Boston in each of the final two quarters and downed the Celtics, 105-103. To punctuate the night, it was none-other than James who hit the game-winning jumper with 10 seconds remaining.
Although it was just one of their two losses in the second half of the season, there’s little doubt that Miami’s streak-ending night in Chicago was the most memorable game of the Heat’s regular-season campaign. Whether you were a fan of the two teams on the floor or not, chances are you were tuned into the game if you call yourself a fan of the NBA.
The buzz generated by the game only grew as the night went on after the Bulls’ made a slew of early statements, playing Miami physical and refusing to back down. Kirk Heinrich’s tackle of LeBron James was surely one of the more notable moments of the entire NBA regular season.
Miami fought and clawed all night, desperately searching for any way to hold on to the 27-game winning streak.
However, it was ultimately the Bulls (who were without both Joakim Noah and of course, Derrick Rose) who came away victorious and kept Los Angeles’ record of 33 straight wins safe in the record books.
Luol Deng’s 28 points led the way for Chicago, while Carlos Boozer provided 17 boards and Nate Robinson came with the energy he always does.
Some theorize that perhaps the Bulls provided a "blueprint" in their physical 101-97 win over Miami, especially when LeBron James appeared to lose his cool after the game when asked about the officiating.
And with the playoffs now underway, only time will tell.