|James and the Heat took flight (Boston Globe)|
This was the kind of dominance Riley, LeBron James, and millions of basketball fans envisioned when King James declared he was taking his talents to South Beach three summers ago. From February 2nd through March 26th, a span of 53 days, the Miami Heat were undefeated. That's nearly one-third of the season. The streak began with a routine win over the Toronto Raptors to close out a four game road trip. More than seven weeks later, the Heat's streak continued to grow. They had beaten just about every team in the NBA over that span. No matter where they went, no matter who they played, the outcome was always the same.
That is, until the Chicago Bulls stopped the streak by beating the Heat, 101-97 last night. The Bulls were without Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Richard Hamilton, and Marco Belinelli due to injuries, forcing Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer to pick up the slack. They did, combining for 49 points and 24 rebounds to lead Chicago past Miami. The Heat fell behind early, as they so often did during their winning streak, only this time they did not recover. Miami had not lost since February 1st, when the Indiana Pacers trounced them 102-89.
Here are some key facts and figures from Miami's epic winning streak:
- This winning streak marks the longest of the three-point era, surpassing the 22 game winning streak compiled by Tracy McGrady's Houston Rockets during the 2007-'08 season
- The Heat were 29-14 (.674) before their streak began. They held a half game lead over the New York Knicks in the Eastern Conference and had the fourth-best record in basketball. They are now 56-15 (.788), own the NBA's top record and hold an 11.5 game cushion over the Knickerbockers
- Miami's previous longest winning streak of the season lasted just six games andwas achieved twice (from 11/15-12/1 and 12/15-12/26). The longest streak of their Big 3 era had been 12 games from 11/29-12/18 in 2010
- The Heat averaged 105.3 points per game and allowed 97.1 per game during their winning streak
- The most points they scored and allowed came in the one game during their streak that extended beyond regulation; their 141-129 double-overtime triumph over the Sacramento Kings on February 26th
- The fewest points they scored and allowed were 86 and 67, respectively, in their February 21st win over Da Bulls
- Only three of Miami's wins were decided by one possession (three points or less). Their margin of victory exceeded ten points in 17 of their wins
- Their closest win was by one point over the Orlando Magic, of all teams, on Wednesday, March 6th. Miami rallied from a three-point deficit with 40 seconds remaining to win 97-96 and extend the win streak to 16
- Miami's most lopsided victory was a 32-point pasting of the Charlotte Bobcats (who else?) last Sunday
- LeBron James played all 27 games and averaged 27 points (how fitting), 8.1 rebounds and 8 assists per game, earning the slight edge over Kevin Durant in the MVP race. King James shot 57.5 percent from the floor, 37.4 percent from downtown and posted an average GameScore of 25.5. He also enjoyed a pair of triple-doubles on top of 13 regular double-doubles. LBJ logged at least 30 minutes in all 27 wins and had just four games in which he failed to make at least half his field goal attempts
- Dwyane Wade missed two games but played his best ball of the season during the streak, averaging 22.8 points, 5.6 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game. He drilled 53.6 percent of his field goal attempts and posted an average Game Score of 19.4
- Chris Bosh also missed two games, but his numbers pale in comparison to the aforementioned dynamic duo. With Wade and James at full strength, Bosh was once again relegated to third-wheel status. He averaged 15.6 points and 6 rebounds per game while converting 52.4 percent of his field goal attempts and recording four double-doubles
The Heat try to launch a new win streak tomorrow night in New Orleans when they take the court against the hapless Hornets.