HANG TIME WEST – Of course they think about it.
The Kings had a very good chance to beat the defending champions on Feb. 26, in Miami and everything. That in itself ranks the missed opportunity pretty high on the regret scale. But now the Heat have 24 consecutive wins, have amassed the second-longest winning streak in NBA history and have the record of 33 in a row by the 1971-72 Lakers within range, and it’s the Kings, of all teams, that had the best chance to end the Miami express.
“It’s crazy to think that we could have been that team to break the streak,” power forward Jason Thompson said.
The Cavaliers had the Heat on the ropes Wednesday in Cleveland, leading by 27 points before Miami asserted itself for a 98-95 victory. Two nights before that, the Celtics were up 17 in Boston and the visitors responded for a 105-103 win. But the Kings. Oh, the Kings.
Sacramento went into the game with a 19-38 record but built an eight-point lead in the first half. It was within 112-110 after consecutive 3-pointers from Marcus Thornton. And after Dwyane Wade missed two free throws with 20.8 seconds remaining in regulation, the Kings capitalized when DeMarcus Cousins put back an offensive rebound with nine seconds to force overtime.
That five-minute extra period ended at 124-124. Sacramento got off the ride there – the Heat opened the second overtime with an 11-3 run and went on to a 141-129 victory, tying a Miami team record for single-game scoring as LeBron James had 40 points, 16 assists and eight rebounds while Wade went for 39 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.
“We still weren’t in the caliber of that basketball team,” Kings coach Keith Smart said some three weeks later. “Close, but we didn’t get the ultimate prize.”
“I thought we had it, yes,” Smart said. “But until it actually goes in the bucket, you walk in the locker room and say, ‘Man, it was real close.’ But I thought our guys played the right way. For the most part, our team has played pretty well against a lot of teams. There’s been only a handful, if a handful, of games where we just couldn’t do anything and were really blown out. But overall, these guys have competed and played at a high level and worked every day like you were playing for it all. That’s all you can ask for a team. With all the other issues that have gone on with our basketball team, nevertheless these guys still come in with a working mentality and we’re going to keep going until our opportunity comes. And it’s coming.
“That game is in the books until the next time we play the Miami Heat, which is next year. You move on. There’s nothing you can do about it. It’s great for basketball right now. It’s great for our fans and fans of basketball that are kind of watching this and kind of looking.”
That night at AmericanAirlines Arena extended the Heat winning streak to 12, which seemed pretty impressive at the time. In the new perspective of 24 in a row and counting, it is an infant moment in the serious run at history that almost never happened.