It’s hard to reconcile where the Heat was just three weeks ago with their torrid 11-game winning streak now. Miami (22-30) sat at 11-30, having just lost Justice Winslow and slowly counting the days until a high pick in the NBA draft.
Now, though, the team sits two games out of the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference and there’s a very real chance that a team once thought to be vying with the Brooklyn Nets for worst in the NBA can now make some noise in July.
The Heat is in Milwaukee today to face a 22-28 Bucks team that have lost eight of their last 10. Already Miami has broken some interesting records. According to Elias Sports, Miami had the worst record entering a 10-game win streak. They topped the 1977-78 Jazz who began their 10-game streak when they were 16-24.
A win against the Bucks would give Miami the longest winning streak ever for a team still under .500. The 1996-97 Phoenix Suns also won 11.
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) February 7, 2017
The Heat have the season series advantage against the Bucks (2-1), with their last win coming on Jan.21 in a 109-97 victory in Miami. For the Bucks, tonight’s game marks the season debut of Khris Middleton who’s been recovering from a torn hamstring he suffered five months ago. He’s expected to come off the bench and play 15-20 minutes according to Milwaukee coach Jason Kidd.
The Bucks are hoping Middleton’s 6-foot-8 frame can improve a porous defense that’s allowed more than 100 points to every opponent since Jan. 2. In all but one of Miami’s 11 wins, they’ve scored more than 100 points. Against the Mavericks, they scored 99.
Can’t Stop Goran
While several players have had their time to shine during the winning streak (Waiters’ back-to-back 30+ point games, Whiteside’s 30-point, 20-rebound game on Saturday vs. the 76ers), most recently it’s been guard Goran Dragic carrying the team. Dragic is averaging 23.8 points in his last five games and has made 15 of his 20 three-pointers. The 30 year old says being in shape has helped him maintain his elite level of play.
Goran Dragic's shot chart during the Heat's 11-game winning streak pic.twitter.com/jrULsPZrs3
— Josh Baumgard (@joshbaumgard) February 7, 2017
Despite the strong play for Dragic, Waiters and company, mentioning the playoffs might seem like a waste of breath to some. Surely this month-long period of bliss will soon end and the Heat will come crashing down. But take a look at their upcoming pre-All Star break schedule:
- Brooklyn Nets (9-42)
- Philadelphia 76ers (18-33, are without Joel Embiid)
- Orlando Magic (20-34)
- Houston Rockets (38-17, but have lost 8 of last 14)
The first three teams all own records worse than Miami. It might be a little bizarre to picture a 16-game winning streak after Feb.15, the final day before the break, but it’s not inconceivable.
Tonight’s game tips off at 8 p.m.