Eighteen and counting. When the Miami Heat beat Indiana Pacers on Sunday, not only did they beat the Central Division leaders for the first time in three meetings this season, they improved upon their franchise-best winning streak and moved to within one win of the fifth longest winning streak in a single season in NBA history. Along the way, the Heat have now also beaten every other team in the league at least once this season and posted the longest winning streak in 2012-’13, surpassing the Los Angeles Clippers’ 17-game winning streak earlier in the season. In light of what the Heat have achieved, here is a look at the longest winning streaks in NBA history:
At No. 1: Los Angeles Lakers; win streak – 33, season – 1971-’72
Coached by Bill Sharman, the Los Angles Lakers, boasting a troika of stars that read Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West and Gail Goodrich, went unbeaten from November 5, 1971 right up to January 7, 1972. Those 33 consecutive wins galvanized the Lakers to post the best-ever NBA regular season record (69-13) until Michael Jordan’s rampaging Chicago Bulls went three wins better in 1995-1996, en-route to a 72-10 season.
At No. 2: Houston Rockets; win streak – 22, season – 2007-’08
This was a snippet of what could have been. While Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady’s joint tenure at the Rockets is remembered more for its misses than hits, the Rockets, riding their two superstars, went 22 games unbeaten between January 29, 2008 and March 18, 2008. Before the start of that season, nobody had expected such a run from Houston, but in that stretch, T-Mac and Yao did send shivers down the league with the Rockets’ dominating run.
At No. 3: Milwaukee Bucks; win streak – 20, season – 1970-’71
A year before the Los Angeles Lakers redefined the NBA’s longest winning streak, the Milwaukee Bucks, led by a young Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and a veteran Oscar Robertson, set the record for the longest winning streak by an NBA team. In fact, the Bucks went on to set a franchise record for wins that season – 66. Also, the next year, when the Lakers posted their 33-game winning streak, it was this Bucks team that ended their winning run.
Tied at No. 4: Lakers and Boston Celtics; win streak – 19, season – Lakers 1999-’00 and Celtics – 2008-’09
L.A. and Boston are arch rivals, but bound together by the fourth best winning streak in NBA history. The Lakers went 19 straight just when Phil Jackson took over as coach in 1999. With the pairing of Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant proving far too formidable for opponents, the Lakers simply cruised right through that regular season – a 67-15 record proof of their commanding display. The Celtics, too, appeared in cruise control at the start of the ’08-’09 season, fresh off their NBA championship win the previous season. With Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen powering the Celtics engine, Boston recorded 19 straight wins between November 15, 2008 and December 25, 2008 en route to a 27-2 start before finishing 62-20.
Miami's Current Streak
Miami will take a lot of heart from these winning streaks. Of those five teams, only the Houston Rockets and the Boston Celtics did not go on to win an NBA championship. And in both those cases, injuries robbed those teams of a possible NBA ring. With Yao Ming injuring himself right in the middle of the streak, Houston lost in the first round of the 2008 playoffs. Boston, on the other hand, suffered as a result of Kevin Garnett’s injury in the second half of the season, which played a big hand in their conference semifinals exit in the 2009 playoffs.
So unless the Heat don’t suffer a season-ending injury to one of their big names – LeBron James, Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh – history seems to favor them winning a second successive NBA title.
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