HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Maybe Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was right.
The Miami Heat just might be the best team in the NBA right now. They certainly aren’t doing anything to hurt their cause. They continue to steamroll the competition in ways that didn’t seem possible just three weeks ago, when many people were questioning their union of superstars.
The only legitimate question surrounding this team right now is who is going to stop them?
Winners of nine straight games after Monday’s win over the Hornets, the Heat’s hot streak could hit 14 by Christmas, when the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers take their talents to Staples Center to face the crew from South Beach.
No offense to the Cavaliers and Wizards, but if the Knicks can’t get them Friday in New York and Cuban’s Mavericks don’t slow them down Dec. 20 in Miami, that Christmas Day showdown with Kobe Bryant and the Lakers will take on even more epic proportions for both sides.
If the Lakers can’t stop them, a home game against the Knicks (Dec. 28) and a road game in Houston (Dec. 29) are all that stand in the way of the Heat finishing December without a blemish.
It’s a stunning turnaround from that .500 start, even for a team that boasts two of the best players on the planet in LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
We know it’s taboo to look too far ahead, but the way this Heat team is playing right now they could run off a string of wins that challenges the 1971-72 Lakers’ NBA record 33-game streak.
When you win nine in a row, all by double digits, and you can win in so many different ways (an angry Wade topped the 30-point mark for the third straight game, playing the attacking role that James did for much of the first month of the season), it’s a legitimate point to raise, no matter how upset Heat coach Erik Spoelstra might be at the idea being tossed around right now.
That Lakers team that won 33 straight only lost 13 games the entire season. This Heat team would have to continue their winning ways into February to top the 33 games (a Feb. 4 game in Charlotte is where they could tie it and a Feb. 6 home game against the Clippers is where they could break the record).
Again, we’re getting way ahead of ourselves here. And the Heat have surely learned a lesson or two about great expectations. The thought of them doing something historical, though, gives this season an edge that was missing this time a month ago. We were sold this unprecedented conglomeration of stars and after we tore through the rapper and turned it on, it didn’t work for the first month. Some people were even ready to return it.
Now it’s working just fine, as Cuban pointed out over the weekend and my main Israel Guiterrez of the Miami Herald observed Monday night:
“They’re pretty damn good,” Cuban said in Dallas on Sunday, a day before his team’s 12-game winning streak ended. “Just the way they play is different than anybody else. That’s a big adjustment. They’ve got those guys that can finish. They get out like the old Suns, but they don’t stop at the three-point line. They just try to dunk over you. That makes it tough.”
Heat games aren’t contests anymore, they’re showcases. You’re waiting for the insane display of athleticism. You’re admiring the impressive teamwork. You’re anticipating the scoring explosion from James or Dwyane Wade. You’re guessing the final margin of victory because it’s what makes the final few minutes of the blowout a little more interesting.
Monday wasn’t much different. It took a little longer for that separation to come, but that’s hardly any surprise when usually the most difficult game of an extended road trip is the first game back home.
But all the other elements were still there. And Cuban, as much as it probably hurts him to know, couldn’t be more right.
Just about everything that has defined the Heat’s current nine-game win streak was on display Monday night.
The Heat started the season 9-8 and have gone 9-0 since then.
The way it looks right, there is no stopping the Heat.