Mar 26, 2013, 9:05 PM EST
It’s about legacy.
When you talk about the 1972 Lakers 33-game win streak you talk about a team that had been the best in the West for the better part of a decade but had no rings to show for it, and when they put it together that year they dominated the league for a season like few others have.
That kind of legacy — of dominating a season, of dominating an era — is what the 2013 Heat are playing for. It’s one thing their current 27-game win streak can help bring them. Setting a new record would be mentioned as part of this team’s legacy the way we talk about the 72-win Jordan-led Bulls squad. The Lakers absolutely owned that season; that’s the legacy the Heat want.
But when you look at who has been better in their respective streaks you see neither team had it easy. There is no easy way to win 27 in a row. Yet the key to how we will remember the run 15 years from now is how it ends for Miami — how many wins and is there a ring to go with it?
Looking at the numbers one difference stands out — the Lakers won the games in their streak by an average of 16 points a night. They dominated. The Heat are at 11.9, which certainly is impressive in its own right. Only three times in their streak did a team come within six points of the Lakers, the Heat have had that or gone to overtime 9 times. That 16-point differential is insane, it speaks to a level of dominance over their competition that even the Heat on this streak haven’t shown.
The two teams have plenty of things in common, starting with the obvious of three big stars on each — Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West and Gail Goodrich are all Hall of Famers. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade will be without question; Chris Bosh has an 88 percent chance of getting elected according to Basketball-Reference’s probability estimates (if he gets a few more rings with this Heat side it is pretty much a lock). Both teams also had good fitting role players around their stars — remember Heat president Pat Riley was one of those players for the Lakers, along with Jim McMillan and Happy Hairston (the latter of which averaged better than 20 points a game during the streak). Miami has Shane Battier, Ray Allen, Mario Chalmers and others that fit their style of play and what they want to do.
The other big similarity: Defense. We know the Heat’s run is built on it — in the last 10-games they are allowing just 97.7 points per 100 possessions, second best in the NBA in that time. The Heat are aggressive, forcing turnovers and converting those to easy buckets and monster dunks the other way.
That Lakers team was sixth in the NBA in points per game (in that era certain stats were not kept so it’s impossible to estimate possessions and the stats that come from them). But former Lakers coach Jim Mullaney said that Bill Sharman, who had taken over to coach that team, had “Chamberlain playing like he is Bill Russell.” (Quote from the book “Lakers Glory.”) When Chamberlain wanted to own the defensive end or glass, he could do it.
That Lakers team did have to deal with things the current Heat do not — the Lakers run started during a string of eight games in 10 days (nod to John Schumann at NBA.com). You read that right. It started on a back-to-back-to-back, they had a day off, then had another back-to-back on the road (Chicago and Philadelphia), then one day off to travel back to Los Angeles before another back-to-back-to-back. And five of those eight teams won 47 games or more that season. During their streak, the Lakers had a total of four back-to-back-to-backs.
That said, the Lakers cumulative winning percentage of teams they beat during the streak (.477, measured by records at the end of the season) is pretty much right in line with where the Heat are now.
It’s hard to compare across decades — the 17-team NBA of 1972 was a very different place than today’s NBA. Fewer teams could mean more condensed and deeper teams (although there were 11 teams in the ABA at the time) but there were also no foreign players to speak of at the time to deepen the player pool.
I think someday we’ll look back on the runs as similar in that they showed the team’s dominance over the league that year — if the Heat win a title this spring.
And that is one other difference — the Lakers streak started in November and ended at the hands of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson and the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks on Jan. 9. Teams can have letdowns when streaks end — those Lakers lost four of six starting with the Bucks — and getting it over early was a good thing said Jim McMillan, the Lakers starting forward on that team, speaking with Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports.
“We had a chance to regroup emotionally, mentally, physically,” McMillian said. “We said, ‘OK, we had a good run on the streak and let’s get ready for the championship run.’ [The Heat] are pushing themselves to break this record and not lose. They are not going to have a chance to regroup because next thing you know the playoffs are here.”
The Heat are riding this wave into the playoffs. We’ll see how — or if — the streak impacts their title run.
But someday my guess is we’ll look back at both streaks the same way — a sign of a team dominating the league for a season like few others have.
Dec 5, 2013, 12:43 PM EST
Anybody who tells you they know what Carmelo Anthony is going to do this summer is selling you something. And it’s something that doesn’t smell good. But we are going to be inundated with this stuff between now and July 1, when Anthony likely will become a free agent. The latest was ESPN personality Stephen…
Dec 5, 2013, 11:40 AM EST
Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert posted this before the Pacers game Wednesday night. I’d say he should get that looked at, but my guess is the Pacers’ trainer Josh Corbeil is not blind. If this were anything serious Hibbert wouldn’t be out there. And Hibbert said it didn’t hurt — he shot 6-of-9 from the…
Dec 5, 2013, 11:09 AM EST
Kevin Durant did it in a movie nobody really saw (Thunderstruck). Michael Jordan did it with cartoon characters (Space Jam). Shaquille O’Neal did it… poorly (Kazam). Now LeBron James is about to be the latest NBA superstar to head to the big screen and star in a movie. Well, we don’t know how big his…
Dec 5, 2013, 10:36 AM EST
With the Nets off to a 5-13 start in the East, there is a lot of finger pointing going on. Losing does that. That includes fingers at first-year coach Jason Kidd, who recently demoted lead assistant Lawrence Frank to be basically the highest paid video coordinator in the NBA. The Nets offense has been isolation…
Dec 5, 2013, 9:28 AM EST
Nike held an event at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles to unveil its latest signature shoe for Kobe Bryant, the Kobe 9 Elite. And it’s a huge change from what we’ve seen out of Bryant’s line over the past several seasons. From the official release: “Designed with Kobe’s tech insights and…
Dec 5, 2013, 8:45 AM EST
Mark Cuban tried to just spend his way to an NBA title. It didn’t work. It rarely does in the NBA — you need an elite player or two, but you can’t just go Steinbrenner and try to buy all the talent in the world to go around them. You need the right kind of…
Dec 5, 2013, 8:00 AM EST
I have this odd vision for the future of the NBA, and in it everyone looks like Kirk Hinrich. Well, everyone doesn’t actually look like Kirk Hinrich, but all the players are wearing goggles nonetheless. That’s not just because they look cool and I think Hinrich is the undisputed king of accessorizing, and it’s not…
Dec 5, 2013, 3:09 AM EST
I said it in the PBT nightly grades post and I’ll say it here — I think LaMarcus Aldridge is the best four in the league right now. I’d take him over Kevin Love, Carmelo Anthony, Tim Duncan or anyone else you can throw out there right now (excluding LeBron James, who plays kind of…
Dec 5, 2013, 2:20 AM EST
Our nightly look around the NBA, or what you missed while figuring out how to use lasers to mark the first down line in the a football game…. LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers. For my money right now he is the best power forward in the game. I’d rather have him over Kevin Love or…
Dec 4, 2013, 10:53 PM EST
Kobe Bryant is back to practicing at full speed this week, and while many hoped that would mean a return to real game action as soon as Friday on the road against the Kings in Sacramento, Bryant himself said on Wednesday that wouldn’t be the case. Speaking to many reporters one-on-one at the unveiling of…
Dec 4, 2013, 9:27 PM EST
UPDATE 9:46 p.m.: The NBA later issued an official release detailing the postponement: “The National Basketball Association game scheduled for tonight between the San Antonio Spurs and the Minnesota Timberwolves has been postponed due to a generator malfunction which produced smoke inside Mexico City Arena. “The date for the rescheduled game, which will be played at…
Dec 4, 2013, 9:01 PM EST
Gerald Henderson of the Bobcats became the latest player to be warned for violating the league’s anti-flopping rule on Wednesday, and there’s little doubt that his dive against the Mavericks on Tuesday was worthy of its distinction. With his back to the defender, Henderson simply takes a leap toward the sideline with the ball in…
Dec 4, 2013, 6:35 PM EST
Is it too late to join the Eastern Conference? Asking for a friend.— Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) December 04, 2013 That is just classic. Sure, it’s been easy for fans and the media to pile on the Eastern Conference, where the 9-9 Wizards are the No. 3 seed and the 8-12 Celtics lead the Atlantic Division.…
Dec 4, 2013, 5:59 PM EST
Larry Sanders has been out since early November when he got involved in a bar fight and tore ligaments in his thumb so badly it required surgery to repair the hand. Sanders has since apologized to fans and the team for the incident. But it’s not over yet. Sanders has been cited twice for his…
Dec 4, 2013, 5:14 PM EST
The Washington Wizards have gone 7-3 in their last 10 and have moved into the No. 3 seed in the East (at 9-9, but still the three seed) all without having the No. 3 pick in the last draft Otto Porter, who was supposed to be the starting three on this team. But they could…
Dec 4, 2013, 3:58 PM EST
When TNT worked with the NBA to set up its Thursday showcase schedule, this Thursday seemed like a ratings spike — the defending Atlantic Division champion Knicks with Carmelo Anthony against the new Kidd on the block in the Brooklyn Nets. Then a showdown between Derrick Rose‘s Bulls and the two-time defending champion Heat. The…
Dec 4, 2013, 3:15 PM EST
It’s the most anticipated game on the NBA calendar, a battle of powerhouse franchises fighting for the heart of America’s biggest city… Or, it could be a big steaming pile of… that stuff you have to scrape off the bottom of your shoe sometimes. It’s the Thursday night showdown between the 3-13 Knicks vs. the…
Dec 4, 2013, 2:28 PM EST
Nate Robinson often gets plenty of run for the Nuggets in the fourth quarter of games. For one thing, he is the human proof of the hot hand theory and when he gets going can change a game (or he can be Mr. Snow Miser, everything he touches turns to snow in his clutch… he’s…
Dec 4, 2013, 2:04 PM EST
DeMarcus Cousins sat out the Kings loss to the Thunder Tuesday night with an ankle injury. When asked if he would be ready to go Friday, he decided to play comedian. Don’t tempt fate, DeMarcus. Derrick Rose may not think it’s funny but Cousins’ comments sounded like a lot of people on twitter who have…
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