By Rob Mahoney
On Wednesday night, the Heat squeaked by the Sixers to win their 20th consecutive game, an accomplishment that put them well within range of potentially tying (or besting) the 2007-08 Rockets' improbable 22-game run. But that string is only the longest in the modern era; the league record is 33 victories in a row -- courtesy of the 1971-72 Lakers team led by Jerry West, Gail Goodrich and Wilt Chamberlain.
That mark may not seem as untouchable as, say, Chamberlain's single-game scoring record, but it may as well be. Considering that the most dominant teams of the last several decades haven't even come within 11 wins of that record, and that today's teams are more conscious than ever of the toll a pedal-to-the-metal season takes on players' bodies, I suspect that the Lakers' high-water mark could be preserved indefinitely.
Members of that Lakers team, however, feel otherwise. Per Chris Tomasson of Fox Sports Florida (via PBT), the Heat have been so terrific over the course of the last 20 games that a few Hall of Famers are growing anxious:
“It is certainly a possibility that the Heat could break our 33-game winning streak,” said Bill Sharman, the Hall of Fame coach of those legendary Lakers. “The record has held for 41 years, and all of us that participated in it are very proud to have been part of that season. However, [Heat president] Pat Riley has put together an amazing team, and I have to admit this one makes me a little nervous.”
“I’d say this is the most serious challenge we’ve had to our streak,” Hall of Fame guard Gail Goodrich, the leading scorer on the 1971-72 Lakers with a 25.9 average, said of the Heat. “I think they’ll make a very, very, very serious run at our record, They might even break it. They’re head and shoulders over the rest of the NBA. Who’s going to beat them? There’s not as much parity in the league now.”
It's certainly hard to imagine the Heat's losing at this point, but the pressure of winning 13 more straight games pits Miami against impossible odds. The Heat hold an edge over every opponent on the schedule and will likely dispatch any and all come playoff time. But to play error-less basketball against 13 straight opponents is an incredible feat. On Friday, the Heat visit Milwaukee in search of win No. 21. From there, they travel to Toronto (Sunday), Boston (Monday) and Cleveland (Wednesday). Will they be able to maintain the focus necessary to reach the Lakers' record? Only time can tell.