As the streak swells, it becomes impossible to ignore, especially for those responsible. So some on the Heat actually appear open to acknowledging that they are accomplishing something significant.
Or, as Ray Allen put it, “commendable.”
Allen used that term to describe all double-digit streaks, but 10 is so last month for the Heat, who are now at 18 and counting entering Tuesday night’s visit by Atlanta.
Only six teams have won more than 18 in a row. That number is so monstrous that even LeBron James, who has repeatedly downplayed the streak, perked up when reminded of its historical context.
“I respect that a lot,” James said, eyes alight. “We respect that.
“I understand the history of the game. … We should be happy and excited about the opportunity that we’re in right now, and the moment that we’re in, to know how many great teams, how many great players have come through this league. To be in this class is great. Especially with this team; it’s a special team.”
And now, with a fairly forgiving schedule upcoming – six of the next 15 games are against non-playoff teams – it’s a team chasing six other special ones:
• 19 consecutive wins: 1999-2000 L.A. Lakers, 2008-09 Boston Celtics.
Miami can match that number against Atlanta and, if it does, Allen will certainly be asked for his opinion. Sunday, the former Celtic shied away from comparing what his Boston team did in the second season of its “Big 3” to what the Heat are doing in the third season of theirs.
That Celtics streak ended at Staples Center against the Lakers on Christmas, when Allen was just 5-of-14 and Kobe Bryant scored 27.
Bryant was protecting a bit of his own legacy. Nine seasons earlier, in what would be his first championship run, he was the Lakers’ second-leading scorer (behind Shaquille O’Neal) during their 19-game streak. That crashed in Washington, when Bryant shot 2-for-10.
• 20: 1947-48 Washington Capitols and 1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks.
That first name might strike you as a spelling error.
But, no, it wasn’t a hockey team, nor the precursor to the current Wizards. In fact, the Capitols franchise folded in 1951, and professional basketball didn’t return to the District of Columbia until 1973, when the Baltimore Bullets moved. The streak actually lasted over two seasons, with Red Auerbach – yes, the cigar guy – coaching the likes of Bob Feerick, Bones McKinney and Kleggie Hermsen. The Capitols somehow kept winning while ripping the nets at roughly a 30 percent clip.
The game had evolved some by 1970, when a fresh-faced Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and a grizzled Oscar Robertson made the Bucks virtually unbeatable.
Miami’s 20th straight win would come in Philadelphia on Wednesday.
• 22: 2007-08 Houston Rockets.
Shane Battier has called it a “perfect storm,” in which a team somehow became tougher (from 24-20 to 46-20) while often playing without one of its biggest stars. Contrary to popular myth, either Yao Ming or Tracy McGrady did lead the team in scoring in 18 of the 22 games, though Yao missed the final 10, and Houston did receive considerable contributions from Luther Head, Carl Landry, Rafer Alston, Chuck Hayes and, of course, Battier, who will never need to buy brew in Houston.
How unlikely? Consider that it it was deemed a big deal when the Celtics won seven straight this season after Rajon Rondo got injured.
Battier can now play a part in catching those Rockets – No. 22 would be Sunday in Toronto.
• 33: 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers.
A shaggy reserve named Pat Riley was eighth on the team in scoring – no shame when Wilt Chamberlain, Happy Hairston and Elgin Baylor were fourth through sixth.
The streak covered most of November, all of December and the first two games of January, with the Lakers scoring at least 104 points in each one.
James had his own 33-game streak this season, one of consecutive games with 20 points. He has already characterized the Lakers’ as unattainable. Which it utterly and undoubtedly is. But the Heat’s been so unbelievable of late that we might as well post the possible date: April 6, at home, against the 76ers.
Show up on time.