The NBA: Examining the Heat Streak

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We know that the Miami Heat lost recently to the Chicago Bulls after winning 27 straight games in a span of 52 days. That defeat prevented the Heat from eclipsing the 33-game record of the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers. Still, the Heat ended with the 2nd best winning streak in all of professional sports. The Heat was tied with the NY Knicks before the streak started and now they have the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference (and best record in the NBA) all wrapped up with an 11-game lead over the 2nd spot.

How did the Heat win 27 straight this season? Here are some reasons...

1. LeBron James
The best player in the world started to separate himself from Kevin Durant as this year's runaway MVP by the start of the Heat Streak. LBJ received 3 Eastern Player of the Week awards and the February Player of the Month award (March will be his too) during the streak. James also had 2 triple-doubles and a handful of double-doubles (13) while averaging about 27 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists on 57% shooting during the streak.

2. Dwyane Wade
D-Wade was in fine form during the Heat Streak as he established himself as a top 5 player once again who can impact both sides of the court. Wade appears to have recovered nicely from his off-season surgery as he averaged about 22 points, 5.7 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 2.5 steals on 53% shooting during the streak. Wade even got one Player of the Week award, his first since 2011. His efficiency allowed Wade to climb as high as #4 in PER and his improved defense landed him 6th in steals per game.

3. Supporting Cast
Chris Bosh is the only Heat player whose stats and contribution went down during the streak. Others like Ray Allen had a couple of 20-pt games and key treys during crunch-time  Shane Battier made his fair share of  clutch threes while taking charges and playing good defense. Mario Chalmers also had a couple of 20-pt games and averaged only 1.5 turnovers during the streak. Chris "Birdman" Andersen was their best bigman off the bench and the Heat has gone 29-2 with him in the lineup.

4. Health
The Heat was relatively healthy and injury-free during the duration of the Heat Streak. Miami has been fortunate enough to avoid major injuries throughout the whole season. During the streak, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh only missed 2 games. Meanwhile, Shane Battier and Ray Allen missed 1 game each. The most important stat: LeBron James missed ZERO games during the streak.

5. Luck
All winning streaks that go this long have luck involved with it. Miami was lucky enough to face teams without key players. Some examples are: they played the Celtics without Rondo and Garnett, they beat the Cavaliers without Kyrie and Waiters and they defeated the Magic without Afflalo and Vucevic. The Heat also got lucky playing inferior teams more than once during the streak like the Sixers (3x), Cavs (2x), Bobcats (2x) and Magic (2x).

6. Chemistry
This is the 3rd year together for their core players. Chemistry and confidence with each other have been established. This Heat team loves playing together and the numbers and minutes dont matter. The 2 best players are both unselfish and are willing to pass. James and Wade will defer to role players who have a better open shot. The Heat had only 1 game during the streak where they had less than 20 assists. Have you seen their Harlem Shake? Will you agree that doing a video like that shows great team chemistry?

7. Clutch
The Heat has been dominant during the 4th quarters of their streak. They turn up the effort and intensity during crunch time which have propelled them to multiple comeback wins when behind in the 4th. Other times, a close game becomes a rout like when they blitzed the Hawks by 20 points in the 4th or when they uncorked a 28-4 run vs the Raptors after being tied. The Heat has outscored their opponents by a staggering 150 points (more or less) in the last period alone.

8. Defense
Their defense was mediocre to average before the streak started, around top 15. Now, they sit at #7 in team defense and the Heat only allowed 6 of their 27 opponents to score over 100 points. They're now #3 in steals which typically translates into highlight plays for them like THIS. They also got around 5 blocks a game for a team without a true center or a shot-blocking big man. Lastly, they forced 2 more turnovers than they commit.

9. Effort
The Heat is a talented team and the defending champions so we know what they are capable of when engaged and motivated. At the same time, the Heat relaxes/coasts when their oppponent is a weaker team. That's just human nature and the Heat is known for that. The streak gave them something to play for every night so the effort was there most of the time. You could see it during their comebacks after being down by double digits (Cavs, Celtics, Magic, Pistons). Their defense was tenacious and they attacked the paint at will.

10. Coaching
The players will get most of the credit for the Heat Streak but Coach Spo and his coaching staff deserve a lot of praises too. Spo made sure that the Heat came in focused and prepared every game. The Heat was pretty good coming out of timeouts when executing a set play. Coach Spo also kept them humble and loose with the intent of "playing better" each game instead of targeting the streak. One more thing, the Heat often cancelled practice or shootarounds after wins. That could have allowed the players to rest more and avoid injuries plus it could have been extra motivation to go for wins to have more practices cancelled.

Overall, the Heat Streak was a historic event that I was very happy to see and follow. I did not think that they could actually beat the 33 wins by the Lakers (expected the Heat to lose in San Antonio) but 27 straight and 2nd best in the history books aint that bad at all. Here are some HIGHLIGHTS during their run.

Ultimately, their winning streak will only become a footnote if they dont win in June. The Heat knows that and their main goal is to become champions again and if they achieve that, then the Heat Streak will look even more impressive.
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