For the Miami Heat, when one winning streak closes, a championship door stays open.
The Chicago Bulls brought the Heat's 27-game winning streak to an end, leaving South Beach's finest six victories shy of the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers' historic 33-game stretch, and seven short of breaking it.
Watching the Heat fall in the Windy City was tough to digest for Miami and its fanbase, but that doesn't diminish the significance behind what they were able to accomplish during the two-month long streak.
Miami's recent stretch of dominance goes down as the second-longest winning streak in NBA history, and while they failed to separate themselves from the Lakers of four decades ago, by no means are they worse for wear.
This winning streak isn't the end.
This streak was about so much more than statistical dominance, yet it's imperative to understand just how phenomenal the Heat were playing.
Over the course of the winning streak, Miami averaged 105.3 points per game, the equivalent of fourth in the league. The Heat also shot 50.8 percent from the field—topping their already league-leading mark of 49.6—and 40.3 percent from three, which would equate to the best conversion rate in the Association once again.
Miami held opponents to 93.4 points a night, a display that would put the Heat in the top five of points allowed. They held foes to 44.2 percent shooting during the win streak as well, a top-10 caliber mark.
The coup de grace?
South Beach's margin of victory through those 27 wins averages out to be a 11.9. The Oklahoma City Thunder currently outscore opponents by 9.4 points per game, the highest point-differential in the league.
These weren't fluke victories the Heat were piling up. Stagnant starts often prevailed in the first and second quarters, but they managed to overcome them, finishing in potent fashions.
If Miami can keep scoring and defending at the rate it was, then its championship outlook becomes that much brighter.
After winning so much, a loss of any kind can be difficult to stomach, let alone one that thwarted their pursuit of history.
But can we just take a minute to reflect on how the Heat went nearly two months without losing?
They won 27 freaking games in a row. If that's not a momentum builder, then what is?
Bear in mind that, according to Tommy Beer of Hoopsworld, as of March 26, the Heat's winning-streak total eclipsed that of every other current winning streak in the NBA—combined.
With just 11 games remaining until postseason play, Miami is riding the most towering of highs.
Falling short against Chicago wasn't in the script, but that doesn't change anything the Heat have done previously.
And what they've done previously is win—a lot. More than almost any other team in NBA history.
That's something to build off of. That's something to feed off of.
As Bleacher Report's own Adam Fromal debunked, hot streaks don't matter heading into the playoffs, statistically speaking. Said stretches are telling, though, and the Heat's was no different.
They know what they're capable of, and the entire league knows it too. This is the same team that said it's not playing to its full potential in the midst of a run for the ages.
Knowing that the Heat are capable of improving, even after dominating like this, only bodes well for them come playoff time.
Monkey Off the Back
I don't want to say that it's good the streak is over, so I won't. But it could be a blessing in disguise.
Under the pressure of chasing the Lakers' streak, the Heat may have felt compelled to play through pain instead of playing it safe. I myself was of the mind that as long as they had a chance to hit 34 or more, they should keep their foot on the gas.
Now, they don't have to.
Should the Heat wind up clinching the best record in the league, Erik Spoelstra has the option of resting his starters. If Wade's banged up, he has no reason to risk further injury. Should they want to feature Joel Anthony on offense more, they're free to do so (kidding).
Miami still has something to play for. The San Antonio Spurs trail the Heat by two games for the best record in the league, which ensures home-court advantage throughout the playoffs, NBA Finals included.
It can actually be about that now. It can actually be more about the postseason than preserving an absurd winning streak.
Imagine if the Heat hadn't lost at all for the rest of the regular season. Aside from being downright incredible, it would have put them under more pressure come playoff time.
Not only would you have pundits playing the "they'll have to lose at some point" card, but this convocation would also be unfamiliar with losing. At the most crucial point of a campaign, being uncertain as to how the team would respond following a loss is hardly ideal.
LeBron and crew now have 11 games to regain their composure—or rather, sustain it.
Again, there's nothing wrong with their loss. They made some mistakes and came up empty-handed. That's perfectly fine. Especially now.
During the postseason, though? Not so much.
It's better the loss happened now than at a more vital juncture, a train of thought the Heat share (via Mark Strotman of CSNChicago.com):
Wade actually said he was glad the streak was over because it gave the Heat a new opportunity to begin focusing on the home stretch of the regular season and a deep playoff run, when they will try and defend their 2012 NBA Finals championship.
James agreed, noting that he won't forget the incredible run his team had, but that a second ring would be much more memorable in the end.
Miami's main objective has always been to defend its championship. Had that included a winning streak of even more epic proportions, then great. But it doesn't, so it's time to move on.
Looking ahead, the Heat have bigger things to worry about, like the first round of the playoffs.
Like the health of their players.
Like winning the second of eight championships LeBron promised.
"This is a special team, and how we are on and off the court, it’s gonna be hard to remember everything," LeBron said (via Strotman). "But ultimately we want to win an NBA championship."
The Heat are still in position to nab that championship, win streak or not.
They're actually better off for having lived it.
And even better off for having the opportunity to live on after it.
*All stats used in this article were compiled from Basketball-Reference, Synergy Sports, 82games.com and NBA.com unless otherwise noted.
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