Greg Cote | In My Opinion

Greg Cote: No apologies or asterisks needed for Miami Heat winning streak

 

gcote@MiamiHerald.com

The Heat’s season anniversary logo has a big ‘25’ on it and so, now, does the team’s winning streak.

“Crazy,” as LeBron James put it well after the latest victory Friday night. “Man, that’s crazy.”

This remarkable run of uninterrupted W’s doesn’t come with an apology, an asterisk or an explanation, and neither would the all-time record come with any “yeah, buts” should the parade of victories get to a magical 34.

History is something you make, or don’t. The particulars don’t end up mattering much, and they matter less and less as time buffs what’s rough and adds a shine.

We see, this close to it, that Miami’s previous two games had been escapes as much as victories, and that Friday night’s win against Detroit won no style points, either.

Overcoming a 17-point deficit in Boston and then climbing out of a ridiculous 27-point hole at Cleveland — you could spend all night debating if those comeback wins were impressive or mostly fortunate.

Again Friday night, the Heat played early as if amusing itself with the challenge of overcoming itself. No matter.

“I’d rather come out the way we’ve come out and finish strong than come out strong and finish weak,” went James’ irrefutable logic.

This time the opponent was a bad Pistons team that had lost nine in a row coming here. The game had no business being close, really. Yet Detroit led by as many as 11 and led into the third quarter as the Heat alternated early spasms of off-shooting, bad defense and what looked almost like slump-shouldered indifference.

Miami would win 103-89, led by LeBron’s 29 points and a spark from the bench, but that was after the type of maddening slow start against which coach Erik Spoelstra preached to his team before the game, to deaf ears, apparently.

“It’s a Friday night in our building; we have to own it,” he’d said. “These last two games showed that if you allow teams’ confidence, they get aggressive and you can turn them into beasts. We need to set the tone and impose our will.”

The Heat did, eventually.

Now they’ll go for No. 26 Sunday against Charlotte, which has the worst record in the league, meaning Spoelstra will be preaching again about setting tones and imposing wills as history gets closer and closer.

It is remarkable what is happening here — no matter HOW it is happening.

Two seasons ago the Heat stunned the basketball world and electrified Miami by adding LeBron and Chris Bosh to Dwyane Wade.

One year ago came the payday as the Heat won the league championship.

This year? The Heat is doing something perhaps ever more astounding — something we thought impossible:

They are making an NBA regular-season compelling. Sometimes riveting. Always interesting.

Two months ago we couldn’t wait for May to get here, for the playoffs to arrive. The regular season was droning perfunctorily.

Now every game matters, the next more than the last, as Miami homes in on the Los Angeles Lakers’ 1971-72 standard of 33 consecutive victories, a record that once seemed unbeatable but now sees LeBron in its rear-view. (You know what they say about objects in the rear-view mirror …)

Just south at Bayfront Park, the annual Ultra Music Festival was thumping.

An Ultra Basketball Festival is what every Heat game has become. Each game in this streak takes on a growing drama, no matter the ease or difficulty of the result.

You know how tension builds in a seven-game playoff series? With each game bigger and more important than the previous one?

This has turned into what amounts to a 34-game series for the Heat, and Miami must win every game, or it loses.

The larger prize is out there, of course, waiting beyond this one being chased. It is called an NBA championship. Another one. A repeat title.

“We have a bigger goal,” as Spoelstra put it. “Not to disrespect the streak.”

Now, though, Miami must have both or else the season will have been a disappointment in some way. Those are the stakes now.

That is how phenomenal this team and season have become.

A winning-streak record not followed by a title would be a major letdown. But falling short of the streak record, after getting this close, would be a disappointment and regret that even another championship would not entirely erase.

I’m not positive that even a second consecutive championship would be bigger than this hallowed, 41-year-old streak record — not in the broadest sense. Not in terms of historical significance.

Plenty of teams win a championship. Even two in a row does not distinguish you entirely. But a 34-game (or more) win streak would. It would rise to that shortest list of untouchable sports records. It would validate a team’s claim to greatness in a way perhaps exceeding even a championship.

We’d admit that’s arguable. So is this: What is bigger right now in Miami sports? This Heat streak? Or the Hurricanes men’s NCAA run as a No. 2 seed?

How delightful we might even HAVE that debate.

The Heat must win nine more games in a row to set the all-time record. The Canes must win five more in a row (after Friday’s opening rout of Pacific) to win the national championship.

Which is likelier?

That we might even ask — that both are legitimately possible — is enough to make the mind swoon.

“Crazy,” to quote Mr. James.

Read more Greg Cote stories from the Miami Herald

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