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Just How Good Is Miami’s Winning Streak?


Miami utilized a third quarter charge on Monday to dispose of divisional rival, Orlando, bringing the team’s winning streak up to 27 games.

The Heat is now within six games of tying the record set by the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers.

Undeniably, winning 27 is an impressive feat but just how impressive exactly? The answer to that seems to depend on which side of the fence you sit.

Miami (and LeBron James) fans will be quick to point out that it is the most impressive streak of its kind. Laker fans and staunch followers of ‘old school’ basketball will tell you that the Lakers did it better.

So, who’s right? BettingSports.com has been holed up with the history books and an adding machine to work out just who knows what they’re talking about. Settle in.

Argument: Los Angeles played in a tougher conference

On the surface of it, this makes for a compelling argument. Teams from the East this season have gone 489-599 (.449) while the West is 564-494 (.533). Winning against the East is that much easier. 19 of the 27 games Miami has played (.704) so far during this streak have been against Eastern Conference opponents.

Even back in 1971-72 the Eastern Conference was the weaker of the two. During that campaign, the East was 283-373 (.431) while the West was 414-324 (.561). 18 of the 33 games the Lakers played (.545) came against Western Conference opposition.

If you want to extend things further, the league as a whole was (in theory) tougher back then. That regular season, the combined record of the 17 teams in the league was 697-697 (.500). Compare that to this season where the 30 teams have gone 1053-1093 (.491).

Advantage: Los Angeles

Argument: The Lakers played tougher teams

Like today, the Western Conference that Jerry West and the 1971-72 Lakers played in was tougher than the Eastern Conference.

Like today, the Western Conference that Jerry West and the 1971-72 Lakers played in was tougher than the Eastern Conference.

During Miami’s current 27-game stretch, the side has played just 11 teams with a winning record (as of today). That’s just below 41 percent. Beating easier teams makes winning easier, right?

However, the Lakers didn’t exactly have it tough in 1971-72. During the 33-game winning streak, Bill Sharman’s side faced only 15 teams with a winning record. That equates to about 46 percent, just above the record of Miami’s opponents.

However, if Miami does tie the Lakers’ record of 33 games, the Heat will have played 14 sides with a winning record. That’s still one less than Los Angeles.

Advantage: Los Angeles (barely)

Argument: Miami is on the road more

This is true, to a degree.

During the 1971-72 season, Los Angeles played 17 games at home and 16 on the road. That’s about 52 percent in favor of home court.

So far on this streak, Miami has played 14 at home and 13 on the road, equating to a 52 percent favor of home court. However, if the Heat ties the 33-game record it will have played 16 at home and 17 on the road, giving the side one additional win on the road.

Advantage: Miami (tediously so)

Argument: Miami is winning when it matters

Win No. 1 for Miami came back on Feb. 3. Nearly two months later the side continues to win. With just 12 games left in the season, Miami is certainly surging towards the playoffs. There is no better time to be playing your best basketball.

Back in 1971, Los Angeles started the season with a 6-3 record. The first win of the streak came on Nov. 5 and would eventually come to an end on Jan. 9, 1972. The side was 39-3 before a 120-104 loss in Milwaukee. After the loss, the Lakers went 30-9 – including a pair of eight-game winning streaks – to finish the season 69-13, a record that stood until the 1995-96 Bulls went 72-10.

There’s no doubt that winning towards the end of the season is tougher, so Miami has an advantage here. The Lakers weren’t exactly hindered though; they won the 1972 NBA Finals 4-1 against New York.

Advantage: Miami

Wilt and the 1971-72 Lakers averaged 123.3 points per game during a 33-game winning streak.

Wilt and the 1971-72 Lakers averaged 123.3 points per game during a 33-game winning streak.

Argument: Los Angeles beat teams by a larger margin

During the Lakers’ 33-game winning streak, the average point differential between the team and its opponent was 16.0 points. As you might expect, Wilt Chamberlain and Co. averaged a bigger margin (17.1) against teams with a losing record than those with a winning record (14.7), but it may surprise you to learn that the team won by more on the road (18.3) than at home (13.9).

Miami is beating opponents by an average of 11.6 points during its current winning streak. Like the Lakers, the Heat is averaging bigger wins on the road (12.0) than at home (11.1) as well as beating those teams below .500 by a larger margin (12.3) than those with a winning record (10.5).

However, this argument is moot. Back in the 70s, the average score in an NBA game was higher than that of today. Teams today average 98.0 points per game, while the 1971-72 season saw teams average 110.2 points per game.

Advantage: Forget about it.


Winner: Los Angeles Lakers (for now)

At this moment in time the Lakers’ record has to be considered the best. However, we might be just two weeks from changing our minds.

This thing’s not over yet. For Miami’s streak to be considered the best, it has to be the longest. That means the Heat needs to beat Chicago, New Orleans, San Antonio, New York, Charlotte and Philadelphia to tie, and Milwaukee to surpass the Lakers. Although the Heat has looked untouchable at times during this streak, that’s still a big ask.

Then there’s the small matter of what happens next.

The 1971-72 Lakers won the NBA championship. The 1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks – who held the record for longest winning streak (20 games) before that – won the NBA championship. The New York Knicks – who held the record for most consecutive wins (18) before Milwaukee – won the NBA championship.

Doesn’t that mean Miami has to win a championship for its impressive win streak to be discussed as the best ever?

Pat Riley was an integral part of the Lakers' run in 1971-72.

Miami’s current team president, Pat Riley was an integral part of the Lakers’ run in 1971-72.

Here’s the thing; comparing teams from different eras is an impossible task. The basketball world today is very different to that of 40 years ago.

Whilst it’s a lot of fun to try and decide whether the Lakers or Heat had the better run, it’s worth sitting back for a minute and marveling at the fact that right now we’re in the midst of something very special, whether the Heat breaks the record or not.

The same was true of the 72-win Chicago Bulls in 1996, the last team that felt really special. Those that watched that season still remember it clearly (and with fondness) 17 years later. Will we be able to say the same about this season? That’s down to LeBron and Co.

Of course, if the Heat does break the record, the likes of Jerry West and Gail Goodrich might not feel the same way as we do, while Wilt might be staring daggers from the big hoop in the sky.

Pat Riley however might not be quite as upset as the rest of his team mates though!

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