Could the Heat Beat the NBA-Record 33-Game Win Streak?

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by: Damon Turbitt

Before the 1971-1972 NBA season, no team in league history had ever won more than 20 consecutive games. Then came the Lost Angeles Lakers. They began that season with a decent 6-3 record, but it surely was nothing compared to what was to come. 33 games later, and with a staggering 39-3 record, their fourth loss came at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks, who ironically tied the previous record for consecutive wins with 20 just one season before. It took 36 years for another team to eclipse the 20 consecutive wins mark, but the 2007-2008 Houston Rockets would falter soon after and see their streak end at 22 games.

Well, there’s your little history lesson for the day, kids, and now I digress. What I’m trying to usher in is the fact that the Miami Heat have just won their 21st consecutive game, beating the Milwaukee Bucks eerily enough, and are raising the question of possibly beating the streak of the Lakers set over 40 years ago.

I’ll open my argument by saying that, in my opinion, the Heat are the most talented team in all of basketball. LeBron James will go down as one of the three greatest players to ever step on to the court. Dwayne Wade is a phenomenal guard, and one of the best players in the Association today. Chris Bosh is another star player that is also one of the best in the game, but is overshadowed by Miami’s plethora of talent. They have the best three-point shooter in NBA history in Ray Allen. Shane Battier is both a great defender and a 42.5% shooter from beyond the arc. I could go on, but I will stop there.

Despite all of this, the Heat will not beat the streak that was achieved by Los Angeles, all bias put aside. Is it because they are not one of the greatest teams of all-time? No. This roster should be remembered as one of the best to ever be assembled. But the fact of the matter is that the NBA is not what it used to be. Of course, there has always been a premier level of talent, don’t get me wrong, but the game has evolved exponentially over the last 40 years. Wilt Chamberlain, a member of the ’71-’72 Lakers squad, was a guy who averaged over 35 points per game for an entire season six times. His career season-high averages are 50.4 points per game and 44.8 points per game. Nobody will ever be able to dominate like that ever again because there is too much talent, and athleticism especially, in today’s game.

The Lakers also did not really have a weakness on their roster. They had four Hall-of-Famers (although Elgin Baylor was at the end of his career). They had a great point guard in Jerry West. They had Chamberlain inside. Everybody on the team could shoot – only one player had a shooting percentage worse than 43 percent. The Heat do have a big weakness though, and that is size. Granted, they are 50-14 without size, but they are 30th in the NBA in rebounding. How are they supposed to win 13 more games in a row? Winning 34 consecutive games with their size disadvantage would be an impressive feat.

Plus, you have to look at who the Heat have to play. Here’s a look at their next 13 games:

  • @ Toronto
  • @ Boston
  • @ Cleveland
  • vs. Detroit
  • vs. Charlotte
  • @ Orlando
  • @ Chicago
  • @ New Orleans
  • @ San Antonio
  • vs. New York
  • @ Charlotte
  • vs. Philadelphia
  • vs. Milwaukee

Of those 13 games, only four come against playoff teams. But in two days, they have to take on their rival, the Boston Celtics, who are disgusted with the current streak and are more than eager to end it. Paul Pierce said that he hoped for the Miami Heat to lose every game until the end of the season, while Jason Terry pulled his best Mikayla Maroney impression by saying basically that the streak does not impress him, nor does anything that the Heat do. The Celtics want to beat them badly, and this is where I see the streak ending, as Boston will pull out all the stops to end the streak at home.

What if the Heat beat the Celtics though? Well maybe I will type up another blog to further assess the situation. But no matter what, until Miami actually wins their 34th consecutive game, I will not say that it is possible.

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If/When Do The Lakers Slide Into The Eighth Spot In The West?

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I listened to this man, Kurt Rambis, speaking about the Lakers on SportsCenter this afternoon. When he explained what he felt Los Angeles needed to do to make the playoffs, I was kind of confused. When he was talking, he made it seem like there was an incredible and almost insurmountable gap between the Lakers and the eighth spot.

The gap, as we speak, is a game and a half. Mr. Rambis, you’re wrong.

I no longer believe that there is a question in regards to if the Lakers will get into the eighth spot, but when the Lakers will make the move. Will the Lakers stay there? That remains to be seen. But, mark my words, the Lakers will get into the eighth spot in the Western Conference. 

The next question is, who falls? Well, right now, there are three teams that are somewhat within reach. Golden State is currently in the sixth spot and four games ahead of the Lakers. Right now, I am ruling them out. They are 20-7 at home this season behind one of the best, if not the best, home crowds in all of the association. Even better for the Warriors, they play 14 out of their final 20 games at home. How can Los Angeles compete with that? They can’t.

The next team in sight is the Houston Rockets. Houston is the current holder of the seventh spot in the West and two games ahead of the Lakers. There is a possibility that the Lakers could catch the Rockets. If it were to happen, would I be surprised? No.  I don’t see it happening though. First of all, the Rockets are the highest-scoring offense in the NBA. In one season, James Harden has gone from Sixth Man of the Year to superstar in just one year. Chandler Parsons is having a very strong sophomore campaign, scoring 15 points and shooting about 39 percent from beyond the arc and Jeremy Lin is quietly having a solid season, averaging 13 points and six rebounds a game. In addition, Houston is ninth in the league in point differential. Are they better-suited to win a playoff series than the Lakers? Probably not, but they will hold on over the last 19 games.

That leaves one team, the eighth seed, the Utah Jazz. This, to me, seems like the team most likely to falter down the stretch. Over their last 10 games, Utah is just 5-5, losing to teams like Sacramento, Milwaukee and Cleveland in the process. Over the Lakers’ last 10 games, Los Angeles is 7-3. So, in the last 10 games, the Lakers gained two games. In theory, The Lakers will have the lead in the next 10 games. I am going to be a little bit more ambitious though. Kurt Rambis says that the Lakers will need to scratch and claw to get in, but I believe that the Lakers sneak into that eighth spot in the next five games. Here’s each team’s schedule over the next five games:

Utah: @ Chicago, @ NY Knicks, vs. Detroit, @ Oklahoma City, vs. Memphis. My Prediction: 1-4 after five games, 33-34 overall.

Los Angeles: vs. Toronto, vs. Chicago, @ Orlando, @ Atlanta, @ Indiana. My Prediction: 3-2 after five games, 34-33 overall.

The way I see it, Utah only beats Detroit in that rough stretch of games. Los Angeles takes care of Toronto, Orlando and Atlanta and finishes their next five games two games better than Utah. So, I think that Rambis will be surprised to see that in just eight days, the Lakers will have a one game lead over the Jazz in the West.  

Lakers Dismantle Wolves, Gain on Utah and Houston

The Lakers began February with a big win at Minnesota, so it was only fitting that they ended the month with yet another big win against the Wolves. The Lakers doubled the win margin this time though, beating them 116-94 at the Staples Center while moving within two games of the eighth seed in the Western Conference. The Lakers have now beaten Minnesota an astounding 21 games in a row.

In their last meeting, Pau Gasol led the team in scoring while Kobe Bryant scored 17 points,grabbed 12 boards and added eight dimes. The Lakers did not have Gasol this time – he went down just four days after that performance – but Kobe picked up the slack, scoring 33 points on 59 percent shooting (also shooting 50 percent from behind the arc) in just three quarters.

Kobe was not the only one producing for Los Angeles though. Six Lakers scored in double figures Thursday night, including Jodie Meeks and Steve Blake, who added a combined 29 points on 7-14 shooting from three point range. Including Antawn Jamison, these three combined for 46 points off the bench, which is a rarity for the Lakers.

The biggest key for the Lakers though was their ability to score from both inside and out. The Lakers scored 46 points from inside the paint, including 10 from Dwight Howard, who shot an efficient 5-of-6 from the field. Their success on the inside translated to success from long range, as the Lakers scored 48 points on 16-32 shooting. Los Angeles scored 94 of their 116 points from either in the paint or beyond the three-point line. Add the twelve points from free throws, and the Lakers only scored 10 points from mid-range jumpers. Games like this do not happen very often, but with the way that they have been playing lately, numbers like this are promising.

With the win, the Lakers moved within two games of the Houston Rockets and within two-and-a-half games of the Utah Jazz.

Call me an optimist because I am a Lakers fan, but the task of making the playoffs is a feasible one for Los Angeles. Of these 23 games, 11 of them are at home and they play 12 games against teams that are non-playoff teams. The Rockets also have 23 games remaining, and play 12 home games and also play 12 games against non-playoff teams. Utah plays 12 home games and 11 games against non-playoff teams. This race is going to be close, but the Lakers definitely have a shot to make the playoffs with the way that they’re playing.

Lakers fans, and basketball fans for that matter, should keep April 17th in the back of their heads, as the Lakers host the Rockets on the last day of the season. The race will be close, so it may come down to the last game of the season. Keep your eyes peeled, folks.

CHRISTMAS

It has been a while since I was last on my blog grind, but I have been busy with finals and visiting everybody on break. Luckily for you guys I’m back!

The best part about today is that I am enjoying a white Christmas, which has become a rarity, even in New Hampshire. I get to sit around with my family, open presents and eat all of the junk food in sight. Also, like Thanksgiving, the three boys run the television; that means basketball will be on for the next twelve hours. This is the second year that the NBA has slated five games for Christmas, which is probably the best thing that David Stern has done during his 28 year tenure. All of these match-ups are looking to be pretty good, and I think there will be a couple of upsets in store for us

Game one tips off in about an hour, and it features the Boston Celtics and the Brooklyn Nets. This will be the first Christmas game for the Nets since moving to Brooklyn. These teams have already played twice, and the Nets have won both times. The Nets were hot to begin the season, but they have dropped three out of their last eleven games, bringing them to a mediocre 14-12 record. The Celtics have not been much better, but Paul Pierce has been lighting it up from the field as of late.

Result: Brooklyn has gotten the better of Boston so far this season, but I believe the Celtics pull out the win, 95-87.

The next game takes place on the other side of the country, as the Knicks travel to Los Angeles to take on the Lakers. As much as I try to wipe their last game from my memory, I just can’t; the Knicks only won the game by nine, but ‘Melo lit up the Lakers for 22 first quarter points en route to a 41 point first quarter for New York. They extended their lead into the twenties, but Anthony rolled his ankle and did not return. Despite that, the Knicks still tamed the Laker offense and pulled out a win in possibly the most embarrassing game that I have seen Los Angeles play since the 2008 Finals. The Lakers are on a four game winning streak though, and they do have Steve Nash back in the lineup.

Result: This one is going to come down to the wire in my opinion, but I think that the Lakers will get revenge on their home court. Lakers take this one, 104-102.

The biggest match-up of the day jumps back over to the East Coast, as the defending-champion Miami Heat host the defending Western Conference champion Oklahoma City Thunder in an NBA Finals rematch. Both teams are playing at a high level once again, especially OKC, who recently came off of a twelve-game winning streak. This match-up is going to be the most unpredictable, as I could see either team blowing the other one out, or I could see this game being a tightly contested battle. I think that LeBron is really going to try and make a statement today to show everybody that he is still the the best player in the league.

Result: I think that LeBron will go off for 40, but it will not be what they need. OKC takes it 110-101.

In my opinion, Houston against Chicago is probably the most boring match-up of the day. Derrick Rose is still out, which takes all of the excitement from the Chicago side, but Houston does give us a couple of things to look forward to. First of all, James Harden has been a beast ever since leaving Oklahoma City, averaging almost 26 points a game this season. Also, Jeremy Lin is always fun to watch, and he is quietly having a solid season although it is not as impressive as his “Linsanity” campaign.

Result: Both teams are doing well, but I think Harden will be too much for the Bulls to handle. Houston wins 98-89 on the road.

The last match-up of the day will feature the Denver Nuggets and the white-hot Los Angeles Clippers. For the first time, the Clippers are undoubtedly the best team in the city, and they are also legitimate title contenders. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are probably the most fun pair of teammates to watch in the league. The Nuggets have also picked up the pace as of late, so they definitely are not a team to sleep on. They do not have all of the flashiness that they once had, but they still will be playoff contenders.

Result: UPSET SPECIAL. I like the Nuggets to end the Clippers’ streak tonight 119-113.

That’s all that I have for today, so I hope that everybody enjoys their Christmas and that they do not eat too much!