Heat hit 26 straight, move closer to history

With a win over lowly Charlotte, the Heat are seven wins from the NBA record

Dwyane Wade sits out Bobcats game, but takes the mic and interviews LeBron James after the Heat's 26th straight win.

MIAMI

The magic of the NBA's all-time win streak the Heat is chasing does not, I believe, just come from the number. Thirty-three straight wins is a staggering number, sure.

The Heat won their 26th straight on Sunday against league-worst Charlotte, 109-77, and coach Erik Spoelstra was asked if he'd ever won this many games at any level in any sport.

"I don't think any of us has,'' he said.

The magic of the streak also does not, I believe, come simply from time. It's been more than four decades since the '71-72 Lakers set the record. That's so long ago Gail Goodrich, a guard on that Lakers team, said, "You know, I'm not sure I even remember some of those games."

Here's why I think there's such power in this record: No team has come within striking distance of it until now. Forty-one years. No threats. The previous closest chance was the 22 straight wins Houston had in 2008. That's only still one-third of the way short.

"It really was just gaining some serious talk when it ended,'' said the Heat's Shane Battier, a member of that Houston team.

Let's put this into better perspective. Every few years, the 1972 Dolphins take center stage when their perfect season is challenged. Just in recent seasons: Green Bay started 13-0 in 2011, Indianapolis started 14-0 in 2009 and New England went 18-0 until losing in the Super Bowl in the 2007 season.

All this has kept the Dolphins in the news. They've been featured in commercials ("Perfectville: Population 1). They've been put on magazine covers ("Nobody's Perfect – Except Us," Sports Illustrated said).

"I love whenever a team challenges our record, because we get to live our great season all over again,'' Don Shula says.

Goodrich was asked if how many calls he got before this year about the Lakers' streak.

"None,'' he said.

None?

"I mean, no one's really challenged it, so it's never in the news,'' he said. "That's what I like about what the Heat are doing. Our team is being remembered for how good it was. This is fun for us, too."

This isn't to compare the Perfect Dolphins' feat with the old Lakers' streak. The Dolphins ended with a championship. That instantly makes it more important and impressive.

But the mere fact the Heat have come the closest to the Lakers' record in 41 seasons is testament to its difficulty. And the Heat are still seven wins away. They still have to win five of their next six games on the road– including at Chicago and San Antonio – just for the chance to tie against Philadelphia.

"New Orleans just beat Memphis, too,'' Chris Bosh said.

They must do it with sight on the big prize, too. Fortunately, Spoelstra knows, in his turbulent time with the Heat, not to get too caught up in any moment and to pick your way carefully.

On Sunday, he picked Charlotte to sit Dwayne Wade with some nebulous knee injury. Rest was the primary point. And rest is necessary in a March where the Heat play more games (18) than any March in their history.

"This thing just happened in trying to get better with the process,'' Spoelstra said of the streak.

This brings one more reason this streak has such power: The Heat's manner of play through it.

"Inspiring,'' was the word Charlotte coach Mike Dunlap chose. Every few days, he said, he shows video clips of the Heat and Spurs to his young players as a "model to teach" how the game should be played. Then he used that word again.

"The way they're playing is inspiring to anyone who appreciates the game,'' Dunlap said.

They're having their fun, too. Wade, out for the game, took the microphone and interviewed LeBron James after the game. James laughed about that. When you're winning like this, it's all fun.

"Just having a chance for the streak, we're all enjoying this,'' said Mike Miller, who started in place of Wade. "But we're just thinking of the next game, too."

Think quick. That's tonight in Orlando. History's waiting.

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