NBA PM: The Miami HEAT’s Path To 33
The Miami HEAT are the hottest team in the NBA, riding a 22-game winning streak that ties the second-longest streak in NBA history. The Houston Rockets accomplished that feat in 2007-08 with a shadow of the roster currently residing on Erik Spoelstra’s bench, but the HEAT now have their sights set on an even more impressive streak.
The only team to have won more than 22 games in a row in a single season is the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers, who won 33 straight en route to their first NBA championship since relocating from Minneapolis. Elgin Baylor was forced to retire nine games into the season due to knee issues, but a roster that still featured all-world players in Wilt Chamberlain, Gail Goodrich and Jerry West went on to put together the record winning streak that has stood for 43 years.
The burning question around the NBA now is whether or not the HEAT can match that historic winning streak.
Heading into tonight’s game against the Boston Celtics, the HEAT face their only real challenge before the end of the month. The Celtics gave Miami all they could handle in the playoffs last year, but then this isn’t quite the same Celtics team. The Celtics are clinging to the East’s seventh seed, and while they have looked tough at times, they have also looked like a team ready to wash out of the playoff picture. Riding a two-game winning streak, Boston could put an end to Miami’s run, but if the HEAT make quick work of Boston it should be smooth sailing as they take on the Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons, Charlotte Bobcats and Orlando Magic over the next week. Then it’s the Chicago Bulls, a team that doesn’t pose much of a threat unless Derrick Rose returns, and the basement-dwelling New Orleans Hornets. If the HEAT win all of those games, their streak will sit at 29 when they land in San Antonio on March 31.
It’s hard to say how that San Antonio game might go. The Spurs famously sent their stars home when the team played their only game in Miami this season, yet it took a late three from Ray Allen to avoid what would have been a stunning loss on November 29. Tony Parker should be back by the time the re-match comes around, making San Antonio the biggest threat to stop Miami’s historic streak in what could be a preview of the NBA Finals.
If the streak survives March, April promises to be very friendly to the HEAT, who play just four playoff teams in their final nine games. The New York Knicks will be without significant pieces of their squad when they meet to kick off the month, after which Miami plays the rebuilding Charlotte Bobcats and Philadelphia 76ers. Then it’s the Milwaukee Bucks, whom the HEAT blew out last week, and a visit to the Washington Wizards. If the streak survives until Miami is off to see the Wizards, they will have set a new NBA record for consecutive wins in a single season with 34 straight victories.
Generally speaking, any team can beat any team on any given night, so while it looks like Boston and San Antonio pose the only real threats to Miami as they look to make history, you never know for sure. The HEAT have already lost to Washington and Detroit this season, for example, and no one saw either of those losses coming. The HEAT might beat Boston tonight and then cough one up in Cleveland as Kyrie Irving looks on in street clothes. It’s highly unlikely, but not impossible.
It’s probably best to just go ahead and circle March 29 on your calendar and set the DVR now. Barring an unprecedented rash of “injuries” in San Antonio, that could be the night the Spurs look to both end Miami’s streak and set the tone for their postseason run.
Hasheem Thabeet Finds A Home in OKC
Hasheem Thabeet may never live up to his NBA draft hype, but this season in Oklahoma City he has shown that he can be a productive NBA big man for the right team. He talks with HOOPSWORLD about ignoring the critics early on, what’s been so different about OKC, how Kendrick Perkins has impacted his game and more in this exclusive interview:
Paul George A Rising Force in Indiana
When the Indiana Pacers learned that they would be without Danny Granger for the bulk of the 2012-13 NBA season, many were prepared for the team to have a tough time. Instead, after struggling a little in November, Paul George rose to the occasion and all but replaced Granger’s production. Not only is George averaging career-bests of 17.6 points, 7.9 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game, he’s also among the better defensive small forwards in the league (64th percentile). Metta World Peace held that distinction when he was an Indiana Pacer, and he recently said he now feels George is the best.
“He’s obviously been on the defensive team, he’s been Defensive Player of the Year so he has the recognition and everything behind him to back that up,” said George in a recent interview 1070 The Fan in Indiana. “I obviously can’t do that as of now but I’m up there. If he considers himself the best defensive player of the game, I consider myself the same. I guess a tale of two sides.”
Roy Hibbert has been the true anchor of Indiana’s defense, but George said the recent resurgence of Hibbert’s offensive game has helped the team a great deal. After struggling to score for much of the season, Hibbert is averaging 16.6 points per game in March.
“It hasn’t changed much (for me) but it’s made my job easier,” said George. “Now Roy is making shots down there and creating his own. That’s just freeing up the whole floor and freeing up driving lanes for myself. His emergence and him coming back around with his confidence has been great for us.”
As for George’s own improvements, he said he has changed his entire approach to the game. He grew up watching Kobe Bryant, and having one of Bryant’s former coaches has helped George push his game to new heights.
“I switched it all up, just my whole preparation,” said George. “I come in early, I lift before every game and I get about 300 or 400 shots up prior to the game, as well. All of that really came from Kobe Bryant. With him being around Brian Shaw and Brian Shaw being around us and me having a relationship with Brian Shaw and the conversations we have had, that’s how Kobe prepares and gets ready for games. Me, idolizing Kobe growing up in L.A, that’s really how I changed my whole season around.”
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