MILWAUKEE – The Big 3: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
The Big 3: The 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers, the 2007-08 Houston Rockets and now the 2012-13 Miami Heat.
There was a whole lot of convergence goin’ on after Miami won for the 21st consecutive time Friday night, a 107-94 victory over the Bucks at Bradley Center, to separate itself from what had been a three-way tie for third place in all-time NBA streakology.
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At 20 in a row, in this wondrous run dating back to early February, the Heat were even with the 1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks and the old-school, somewhat-asterisked Washington Capitols, who stretched their 20 victories across the end of the 1947-48 season and the start of 1948-49.
Now, though, only that Rockets club of five years ago which won 22 straight stands between the NBA’s defending champs and one of the league’s greatest milestones owned by one of its legendary teams. The Lakers of Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, Gail Goodrich – and Pat Riley, the Miami president who was a role player on coach Bill Sharman‘s L.A. squad back then – ran off 33 in a row. They started winning on Nov. 5, 1971 and didn’t stop until Jan. 9, 1972.
James, an hour or so before tipoff Friday, said he learned of the Lakers’ streak back in grade school. Third grade, maybe fourth grade — at some point he thumbed through a volume about pro basketball and uploaded a little history.
“Reading NBA books and pictures and stuff,” the Heat star said. “I’d seen it, when I was a kid. Any NBA book to bring up records said that the NBA team with the most consecutive wins was the Los Angeles Lakers.”
It’s a number – 33 – that grew mythical through the years, in ways that even casual NBA fans know. Quick! What’s the all-time record for consecutive MLB victories? Or NHL? The Mt. Rushmore players on that Lakers team, the long-sought championship that validated the streak, the way their record dwarfed the one set by the Bucks just one season earlier — it set a standard that has gone unchallenged.
That is until the Heat win a half dozen more or so, at which point the clamor and the scrutiny and the overkill will increase exponentially … to equal pretty much what Miami has navigated since July 2010.
For now, The Streak is something for the Heat to shadow-box, nothing to embrace yet nothing to deny. In one breath, coach Erik Spoelstra said: “I still haven’t brought it up to the team.” In the next, however, he said: “We’re not oblivious to it.”
No one is, at this point. The Heat handled the Bucks Friday in a contest that was richly rewarding as a stand-alone — revenge for a collapse in Milwaukee in a late December visit, a message game for what might be a No. 1 vs. No. 8 first-round clash in late April.
There was more tension than drama, pegged to Wade getting face-mushed by Larry Sanders‘ hip on a first-quarter drive toward the rim.
The Heat’s All-Star shooting guard went down hard and lay there momentarily. He was escorted to the dressing room, checked out according to the league’s concussion protocol — his injury turned out to be a neck strain, which briefly numbed his hands — then returned to play catch-up, stats-wise, with James and Bosh.
Now it’s back to Toronto, where this thing began on Super Bowl Sunday. Then to Boston Monday for a shot, barring a Raptors’ upset, at moving past the Tracy McGrady/Yao Ming Rockets into the No. 2 streak spot. And then, well, there’s a bunch of games before Miami faces Philadelphia in what hypothetically would be No. 33 on April 6 and then Milwaukee in a possible No. 34 three nights later.
Lot of schedule between now and then, as Spoelstra was quick to remind.
One way to look at The Streak, though, is that it’s something to help with their focus when their position atop the Eastern Conference appears to be rock solid and the challenges between now and the postseason look a little fuzzy. Winning one night at a time won’t necessarily require them to alter their routines — Wade said he never thought about The Streak when he went back to the court — but it might stave off some early-spring doldrums.
“It’s a lot of wins,” Ray Allen said. “It’s a lot of preparation that goes into it. It’s a lot of small things that you do. It’s a lot of luck, ball bouncing in your favor. Sometimes you can say the schedule even works in your favor a little bit. But we’ve had back-to-backs. We have home [and] road games. We’ve had a coupling of everything. We just kind of buckled down and learned to win games, regardless of what’s thrown at us on any given night.”