Kevin C. Cox
The Heat have the longest winning streak in the NBA this season. Is it time to start thinking about history?
With their dominating 105-91 victory over the Pacers on Sunday, the Heat won their 18th game in a row, moving past the Clippers for the longest win streak in the NBA this season. If they beat Atlanta on Tuesday, they'll become one of only six teams to ever win 19 games in a row. The 33-win streak of the 1971-1972 Lakers is probably out of reach, but Miami has a good chance to pass the 2007-2008 Rockets, winners of 22 in a row, for the second-longest win streak in NBA history.
Even though they're playing the Hawks at the American Airlines Arena, where they have a 29-3 record this season, Atlanta might have the best chance to derail their chance at history. The Heat have already beaten the Hawks three times this year, including a 103-90 victory in Atlanta that was win No. 8 on this current streak, but they still have enough talent to make the game interesting and it's very hard to beat a good team four times in one season. The game will be nationally broadcast on NBATV at 7:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday.
After a four-game winning streak that began on the day after the trade deadline, the Hawks have come back to Earth in the last week, dropping five of their last six games. At 34-28, Atlanta is currently tied for the No. 6 seed with Boston and has to worry about a surging Milwaukee team at No. 8 that is now only 1.5 games back. Like everyone else in the East, the Hawks want no part of the Heat in a first-round series, but they have no reason to fear anyone on the other side of the bracket. For all their struggles since losing Joe Johnson, Atlanta is still only 4.5 games out of the No. 2 seed.
If the Hawks are going to have a chance on Tuesday, they'll need a huge game from Josh Smith. Smith, set to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, is one of the most enigmatic players in the NBA. An athletic 6'9, 240 combo forward, he's one of the only players in the NBA who can (theoretically) match up with LeBron. He's averaging 17 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 blocks on 46% shooting this season; a strong performance in a nationally televised game against Miami could go a long way towards earning him the max contract he desires.
Chasing History in Miami
Even though the Heat are 10-point favorites on Tuesday, there's a reason many circled their game against the Hawks as a possible stumbling block. Their schedule gets significantly easier going forward, as they embark on a five-game road trip that features only two teams (the Bucks and the Celtics) with records over .500. After Atlanta, they play at Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Toronto, Boston and Cleveland, meaning they would be going for win No. 23 against the Celtics on national TV next Monday. However, as the old cliche goes, all they can do for now is take it one game at a time.
Today, the Hawks. Tomorrow, the world.
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