Heat face ‘dog fight’ to defend streak
by Jeff Zillgitt, USA TODAY Sports
The ways to quantify the Miami Heat’s dominant run multiply by the day.
But few numbers tell the story more simply than what counts most: wins and losses.
The day the Heat began their winning streak on Feb. 3, they were 29-14 and in a virtual first-place tie with the 30-15 New York Knicks in the Eastern Conference. Just 4½ games separated the Heat from the sixth-place Atlanta Hawks.
The Heat, who extended their streak to 22 games after Sunday’s 108-91 victory vs. the Toronto Raptors, are 11½ games ahead of the second-place Indiana Pacers, 15 games ahead of the Chicago Bulls and 18 games ahead of the Milwaukee Bucks.
Miami has torched the East, leaving behind a trail of blowouts, dejection and doubt that anyone in the East — the Western Conference, too? — can beat the Heat in a seven-game playoff series.
“You talk about a well-oiled machine, those guys are efficient both offensively and defensively,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said in an apt, concise and efficient declaration.
On Monday against their main conference rival, the Boston Celtics, the Heat can extend their streak to 23 and surpass the 2008-09 Houston Rockets for the second longest winning streak in NBA history. The 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers won a record 33 consecutive games.
“Obviously any time we play Boston in Boston, it is a tough place to play,” Heat guard Dwyane Wade said. “They play very well versus us (and) have been playing very well as of late. It is a challenge, a great challenge and I think we will be ready for it. We have to get our rest and we know we are going to have a dog fight on our hands.”
The Celtics have played some pretty good basketball lately, too. During the Heat’s winning streak, Boston is 13-6, a .684 winning percentage. Yet, the Celtics have gone from 7½ games behind Miami to 15 games back in the standings.
“They’re just better at what they do. I don’t think they’ve changed much,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “They’ve played the same way all year. They spread the floor. They attack. Defensively is … [For more on Miami Heat face 'dog fight' to defend winning streak, click here.]