In the Summer of 2010, when the Miami Heat signed Chris Bosh and LeBron James to join Dwyane Wade as the NBA’s latest and most formidable super trio, speculation rose that the Heat would win multiple titles and even break the Chicago Bulls single season record for 72 wins. I was skeptical about all of that but even I told a colleague that those three plus two guys from an office intramural squad stood a chance at 50 wins in the NBA.
The first month of the 2010-’11 season, when the Heat limped out to a 9-8 record, was a stern reminder that the NBA is a team game and that this phenomenal accumulation of talent might need time to mesh into a team. Even so, the Heat went on to win 58 games and lose in the NBA Finals to a Dallas Mavericks squad that had one superstar and a strong team concept.
The Heat won the title impressively in 2012 and they arrive tonight in Philadelphia riding a 19 game winning streak. There are no more questions about their legacy, but this winning streak might be their crowning achievement. If that is, they win 14 more games. 19 game winning streaks are nice but that’s been done. The NBA record is 33 by the ’71-’72 Los Angeles Lakers, one of NBA’s greatest teams.
It’s a possibility. The enemy of winning streaks in the NBA is the increasing competitive balance in the league and the schedule. Teams are often forced to play four games in five night s in four different cities. That can lead to upsets like the Heat losing to Milwaukee and Detroit on consecutive nights in December on just such a stretch. And as for competitive balance, well Tuesday night, Charlotte, one of the Association’s coldest teams, beat Boston, one of the hottest. 72 wins is probably out of the question in today’s NBA. The 33 will be the Heat’s benchmark for their non title built legacy.
The major hurdles are games March 18 at Boston, which will be the third in four nights, Wednesday the March 27 at Chicago (Derrick Rose’s presence is irrelevant, the Bulls minus Rose have already beaten the Heat in Miami this season), and Sunday March 31 at San Antonio. If they clear those, then the only thing between Miami and an enduring record is one of those on-any-given-night foibles that is beginning to define the NBA.