Chasing the Los Angeles Lakers' all-time record of 33 straight wins.
Rattling off 18 straight victories is incredible and seems historic. And on some levels, it is. The Heat are just the 12th team in NBA history to emerge victorious in 18 or more consecutive games. If they snag a victory over the Atlanta Hawks, they'll be just the seventh to extend such a streak to 19 or more.
But if the Heat are to match and ultimately surpass the Lakers' 33-game win streak from the 1971-72 campaign, they're going to have their work cut out for them.
And as Chris Tomasson of Fox Sports Florida notes, they're going to have to win right on through to April.
Chris Tomasson @christomasson
The #Heat can break the Lakers' all-time record for longest winning streak with a 34th straight April 9 against Milwaukee.3/10/2013, 11:54:29 PM
Impossible? Not the way Miami is playing.
The Heat have won 11 of 18 games in the streak by at least 10 points, and exactly half of their 18 victories came against likely playoff-bound teams.
Over the next 16 contests, just seven come against postseason foes, while the other nine are opposite teams below .500. Miami is currently 23-3 against sub-.500 ballclubs. So it's good news all around then.
Well, maybe not.
Of their next 16 bouts, 10 come on the road, including a stretch where they play nine of 11 away from AmericanAirlines Arena.
The problem, though, is that three of those road games come against teams that have already beat them this season—the Milwaukee Bucks (March 15), Boston Celtics (March 18) and Chicago Bulls (March 27).
Also looming large is an April 2 contest with the New York Knicks, who've beaten the Heat twice this season.
While that may not seem like much, consider this: Six of their next 16 games come against opponents who account for six of their 14 losses. That's hardly a simple path to navigate. For a dominant team like the Heat, it's the closest thing to a gauntlet they will incur.
Winning in San Antonio against the Spurs (March 31) only deepens the complexity of Miami's quest. The Heat have already beaten them once (at home) but will now be traveling to San Antonio, where the Spurs are currently 25-4 on the season.
Again, this isn't to say that the Heat can't break the record. If any team in the league could, it's them. But there's a reason the 1971-72 Lakers are the only team in NBA history to win more than 25 games in a row, let alone 30.
Because doing so isn't easy. Not for anyone. Even the LeBron James-led Heat.
Sustaining this pace is an arduous-enough task as it is. Doing it mostly on the road seems to border on implausible.
For those who believe that playing away from home won't matter, you must remember anything goes (more than it normally does) when playing outside of your safety net. Even lottery-destined clubs can play inspired basketball at home.
The Heat know that. All three of their losses against sub.-500 opponents have come on the road. There's no guarantee they won't suffer another upset.
When taking into account how the Heat have been playing, however, I look to four games that could define (or ultimately end) their current crusade: those against the Celtics (March 18), Bulls (March 27), Spurs (March 31) and Knicks (April 2).
Both Chicago and Boston are great at controlling the pace of play and present some difficulty for Miami. The way the Bulls have played as of late, and with the Heat gunning for the Celtics after an overtime loss earlier in the season, even those two aren't as worrisome as the Knicks and Spurs.
San Antonio is dominant at home. Tony Parker might not be in the lineup by then, but the Spurs almost unseated the Heat on the road sans Parker, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green the first time. If I'm the Heat, they scare me regardless of who's on the floor.
Much of the same can be said of New York, one of only two teams (Pacers) to beat Miami twice this season.
The Heat came out on top in their last meeting, 99-93, but Miami has already been blown out against the Knicks twice, once at home against a Carmelo Anthony-less squad. That this fourth matchup comes just 48 hours after they face the Spurs doesn't exactly bode well either.
Pinpointing a span where the Heat's winning streak could get away from them, it's tough not to look at those two games. They're the only two back-to-back playoff outfits Miami faces over the next 16 and are thus the biggest obstacle South Beach's finest must overcome.
Should the Heat win through the Spurs and Knicks, though, we can cautiously venture that the Lakers' 33-game win streak is in serious jeopardy.
*All stats used in this article were compiled from Basketball-Reference, Synergy Sports and 82games.com unless otherwise noted.
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