On Fire – Putting the Miami Heat’s Winning Streak into Context

By Kevin York

Photo Credit: (Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images)

Photo Credit: (Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images)

Yesterday someone asked me why none of us have written about the Miami Heat given their (at the time) 22 game winning streak. Good question. The obvious reason is that I’ve been swamped with work (the real work, the one that I get paid to do) so haven’t been writing as much lately (shout out to Hoa for carrying us with two strong posts in the past week). Busy isn’t the only reason I haven’t covered the Heat and their streak though; after all, I found the time to write a couple Quick Slants about the Seattle Seahawks. So why haven’t the Heat piqued my interest enough to write about them?

I guess to a certain degree the streak didn’t impress me enough. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an impressive streak to look at in a silo (winning that many games in a row is impressive in any sport in any situation), but when you put context around it, it doesn’t impress me as much as, say, the Seattle Seahawks trading for Percy Harvin or signing Cliff Avril. Think big picture. A streak like the Heat’s doesn’t really mean much at this point in the season.

Consider this: Last night the Heat beat the Celtics to move into second place on the list of the NBA’s longest all-time regular season winning streaks. The team they passed? The 2007-2008 Houston Rockets, who finished third in the Southwest division behind the New Orleans Hornets and San Antonio Spurs, and were led by Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady and Rafer Alston. Those Rockets lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Utah Jazz.

Other teams the Heat passed on the list of all-time longest regular season winning streaks? The Washington Capitals (streak stretched over two seasons – 1947-48 and 1948-49), 1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks, 1999-00 Los Angeles Lakers, 2008-09 Boston Celtics, Rochester Royals (streak stretched over two seasons – 1949-50 and 1950-51), Philadelphia 76ers (streak stretched over two seasons – 1965-66 and 1966-67), 1969-70 New York Knicks and 1995-96 Chicago Bulls.

Counting the Rockets, that’s 8 teams (I’m counting those whose winning streaks spanned two seasons as just one team even though the teams changed some from one year to the next).

The important question now is: How many won the NBA Championship? The answer? Six of them. The only two that didn’t were the Rockets and the Washington Capitals.

So now I feel like a real idiot. I didn’t think these regular season win streaks were indicative of how a team would fare in the playoffs, having the Rockets in mind the whole time. When I looked up the longest win streaks on Wikipedia (is it wrong that Wikipedia has become my first stop when researching?), I anticipated seeing more teams like the Rockets and fewer teams like the 95-96 Bulls. I was obviously wrong.

For the record, the one team the Heat are still trailing to achieve the longest win streak ever is the 1971-72 Lakers. That team put together a 33-game win streak and also won the NBA title. So of the top win streaks ever, seven of the 10 teams went on to win the Championship with Miami TBD right now. This is a big deal.

I don’t think it’s just me that’s overlooking this streak, though. I don’t feel like the mainstream media has been giving this streak the credit it deserves. Of course, I could just be saying this to make myself feel better. I have no basis of comparison for saying they’re overlooking it.

Coming into last night, I was hoping the Celtics would be the team to break the streak (and they nearly did behind Jeff Green’s 43 points). This was purely for selfish reasons. Now knowing the historical context, and with the Celtics not on the schedule until what would be win 36, two wins after breaking the all-time record, I kind of want to see the Heat break it. We’re talking about an all-time record here.

Of course, now that I’ve written this, the Heat will fall tomorrow night in Cleveland, which would be appropriate for LeBron … Call it the Couchletes Curse.

By Kevin York
Follow Kevin on Twitter at @kevin_york
You can contact Kevin at kevin@thecouchletes.com