Undefeated 2013 Playoff Run Would Make Miami Heat Best NBA Team Ever

Bryan Toporek@@btoporekFeatured ColumnistMay 1, 2013

Could we be witnesses to the best team in NBA history? If the Miami Heat go Fo', Fo', Fo', Fo', yes.
Could we be witnesses to the best team in NBA history? If the Miami Heat go Fo', Fo', Fo', Fo', yes.Rob Carr/Getty Images

The 1995-96 Chicago Bulls are generally regarded as the best team in NBA history.

But if the Miami Heat romp through the 2013 playoffs without dropping a single game, the Bulls' place in history will be in jeopardy.

Before flooding the comments section with cries of sacrilege, hear me out.

In Michael Jordan's first full season back after his baseball-induced retirement, the 1995-96 Bulls finished the regular season with a 72-10 record. Through the 2012-13 season, no team in NBA history has ever matched or surpassed that feat.

The 2012-13 Heat weren’t all that far behind, though. They finished the regular season with a 66-16 record, something that's only been done 13 times in NBA history. The 66 wins were a franchise best for Miami, too.

The 1995-96 Bulls also hold the advantage over the 2012-13 Heat in terms of most regular-season statistics, having ranked first in the league in points per game (105.2), offensive rating (115.2) and defensive rating (101.8), and third in opponents' points per game (92.9). In 2012-13, Miami ranked fifth in points per game (102.9) and in opponents' points per game (95.0), second in offensive rating (112.3) and ninth in defensive rating (103.7).

The 2012-13 Heat do beat the 1995-96 Bulls in terms of effective field-goal percentage, though. The Bulls ranked fourth in the league (.517) in eFG% back in 1995-96, but Miami led the league (.552) in 2012-13, as James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all posted career-high shooting percentages.

The Heat also have a regular-season ace up their sleeve: their near-record-breaking winning streak. Miami strung together the second-longest winning streak in NBA history during the 2012-13 regular season, notching 27 straight victories from Feb. 3 through March 25.

Chicago’s longest winning streak during the 1995-96 season was 18 games, only the 12th-longest in NBA history.

  PPG Opp. PPG Off. Rating Def. Rating eFG% Win Streak
'95-96 Bulls  1st      3rd     1st      1st   4th  18 games
'12-13 Heat  5th     5th     2nd      9th   1st  27 games

Those 1995-96 Bulls finished the 1996 postseason with a 15-3 record, dropping only one game in the Eastern Conference semifinals to the New York Knicks and two games in the NBA Finals to the Seattle SuperSonics.

If the Heat complete the never-before-done "Fo', Fo', Fo', Fo' " sweep through the 2013 playoffs, they'd possess the ultimate trump card over Chicago's claim to the best-ever-team throne.

Of course, Miami still has a long way to go before seriously considering the possibility of running off 16 straight postseason wins.

"That’s not even on our minds," Heat forward Shane Battier told NBA.com's Steve Aschburner after completing the first-round sweep of the Milwaukee Bucks.

 "Sixteen in a row, I'm not even going to look at that," said James to Aschburner.

There's good reason. The Heat's sweep of the Bucks was the franchise's first playoff sweep since James took his talents to South Beach in 2010 and only their fourth in franchise history, according to Eric Reid, the FOX Sports Florida play-by-play broadcaster for the Heat.

Continuing their current 12-game winning streak (the final eight games of the regular season and the four-game series against the Bucks) will only grow more challenging from this point forward. As Miami advances deeper into the postseason, significantly tougher, more battle-tested opponents will await.

After all, it was only roughly a year ago when the San Antonio Spurs opened the playoffs with 10 straight wins, looking purely unstoppable in the process. The Oklahoma City Thunder proceeded to win the next four straight games, stopping the stunned Spurs dead in their tracks.

If any member of the Big Three gets seriously injured, it would almost certainly spell doom to Miami's chances of an undefeated playoff run, too. Remember how vulnerable the Heat looked after Chris Bosh went down in Game 1 of the 2012 Eastern Conference semifinals?

Soreness in Dwyane Wade's bruised right knee caused him to miss Game 4 against the Bucks in the opening round of the 2013 playoffs. If that knee continues to pose problems for Wade, the Heat's quest for 16 straight only becomes that much more unlikely.

Given how well they've been playing since the calendar flipped to February, it's not entirely out of the realm of possibility for the 2012-13 Heat, though.

The defending champions started off the season in relative cruise control, but kicked things into high-gear after getting rolling on their 27-game win streak. They posted a 29-14 record in their first 43 games, then won 37 of their final 39.

To put that into some context: The Bucks won 38 games all season. The Heat matched Milwaukee's full-season win total in their last 41 games.

Had the Heat played every regular-season game as though it were Game 7 in the NBA Finals, there's a very real chance that they could have bested the 1995-96 Bulls' 72-10 record.

No one can begrudge the Heat for taking it relatively easy in the first half of the 2012-13 regular season. Coming off a championship run, it's difficult for any team to bring their A-game every night, especially on the road in December against bottom-feeders like the Washington Wizards and Detroit Pistons.

Now that James, Wade and Bosh have won a championship together, they understand when they can ease off the gas and when it's "go" time.

The playoffs fall under that latter category.

There's a reason the Fo', Fo', Fo', Fo' hasn't ever happened in NBA history. The combination of skill and luck needed (both in terms of injuries and opponents drawn) makes an undefeated postseason all but a pipe dream.

Miami currently has the best player in the world playing at the most efficient level of his career, though.

As long as the basketball gods don't forsake the Heat with an unforeseen injury, they still possess an outside shot at completing the first 16-game postseason sweep in NBA history.

If that happens, Jordan and the 1995-96 Bulls better get ready to make room at the top of the best-ever-team rankings.

James and the 2012-13 Heat will leapfrog them.


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