It doesn’t get much more clutch than that!
I didn’t think it was possible, but after watching that Miami Heat-Boston Celtics game last night on ESPN, I am even more impressed by the Heat. Miami is currently on a 23-game win streak that began all the way back on February 3rd. I tweeted last night that I believed this was the most impressive win of the entire streak. To be honest, this is the Miami Heat that I have always expected to see and with the health of Dwayne Wade noticeably improving, it is scary to think just how good this team can be.
If there were ever a chance this win streak would be legitimately challenged and in danger of ending it would have been last night. Miami had lost their previous ten regular season games in Boston and the Celtics are their most bitter rival. Last night was also the Heat’s fourth game on a five game road trip. Fatigue should have been a factor and it obviously was initially due to the horribly sluggish start in the 1st quarter by James and company. And then once the game began, an unexpected factor came into play, which should have led to the end of the Heat’s streak in the form of Jeff Green. He was a wicked force of nature who could not be stopped last night, particularly in the first half. As I watched him make play after play after play, I went from saying, “Whoa!” and “Oooh!” to just laughing. Jeff Green has some serious skills, but last night was unlike anything we have ever seen from him. Check out his stat line: 43 points—7 rebounds—2 assists. I have been saying that it would take something bizarre for the Heat to lose such as an injury or breakout performance. We saw the latter last night. Also, the Heat was down by 17 points on the road! You are not supposed to come back from that. But to take it up another notch, Miami was down by 13 points with 8 minutes remaining in the game. On the road this typically equals a loss, especially with the passion Boston was playing with. Bottom line, Miami should have lost and the streak should have ended at 22.
LeBron James had other ideas. James poured in 37 points, gathered 7 rebounds and dished out 12 assists. He accounted for 64 of the Heat’s 103 points. The world’s greatest player and future greatest of all-time (sorry MJ) did it all. He culminated his masterful performance with a beautiful game-winning jump shot just inside the three-point line that had everyone not wearing green jump off the couch. Let’s face it, we all like to see the best be the best. Last night’s game had a playoff feel to it which made it even more enjoyable to watch.
Two Big Insights
Other than being utterly entertained by a highly competitive basketball game, I gleaned a few insights from the Celtics-Heat barn-burner.
When Rajon Rondo went down with a season-ending knee injury in January, many wrote off the aging Celtics. However, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett have had a resurgence of youth and have been aided by the remarkable play of Jeff Green, Courtney Lee, Avery Bradley, and Brandon Bass. I still wasn’t convinced that Boston could threaten Miami until last night. Last night, Boston nearly beat and should have beat Miami without Kevin Garnett. Granted, Jeff Green will probably not reproduce his 43 point night, the point is that Boston has not only some fuel left in the tank, but they are approaching a full tank. If they can get healthy and stay healthy, the Celtics can be a serious threat to the Heat in the Eastern Conference. They may be the only team outside of San Antonio and Oklahoma City that can ruin the Heat’s championship title defense.
Okay, okay, I know that the success of Miami’s role players is predicated on the play of LeBron James and Dwayne Wade (and sometimes Chris Bosh). This point is assuming that LeBron is being LeBron and D-Wade is being D-Wade. These two guys create so much attention that guys like Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier, and Ray Allen can have a big game on any given night. And Miami needs them to. Last night for example, LeBron dominated and in essence won the game with his jump shot with 10 seconds left in the game. However, Mario Chalmers had 21 BIG points. Otherwise average players play at an elevated level because of LeBron James. And that is what marks a superstar—how much better is his team and teammates when he is in the game? For LeBron, his team and teammates are MUCH better. Also, on the defensive side of the ball, Shane Battier really made the game-closing play by blocking Jeff Green’s attempted lay-up that would have tied the game at 103. The Heat will not be able to win another NBA championship solely on the efforts of James, Wade, and Bosh. They need the likes of Udonis Haslem, Shane Battier, Ray Allen, Mario Chalmers, and Chris Andersen.
As for the win streak, the obvious question is “Will the Heat break the 1972-73 Lakers’ streak of 33 wins in a row?” This is a tough one for me. Living in small-town Kentucky gives me the freedom to be a fan of players rather than a certain team whereas if I lived in LA or NYC I would be loyal to the Lakers/Clippers or Knicks/Nets. With that, I have been a LeBron James fan since he entered the league. I love his game because he is an unselfish superstar on the court. He is a hybrid of Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan and I think this elevates his game over the both of them. So, my heart says that the Heat will break this record. And my head gives me the same answer in one way. I mean, who is going to beat them? Barring an upset (which any loss is probably an upset), I am going to predict the win streak coming to an end on Easter Sunday in San Antonio. It will be the fourth game of a road trip that stretches over 6 days and the Spurs are legit. But if the Heat beat Tim Duncan and the Spurs, look out! They will indeed break the streak in Miami against the Bucks on April 9th.
Whatever the outcome, this win streak deserves appreciation and I would encourage you to sit back and enjoy the show of the world’s greatest player who is playing his best basketball.
Oh and here is an example of how to put someone on a poster: