The Miami Heat is on a quest for greatness, right? They want to go down in the annals. With a 66-16 regular season record and the 27-game win streak (let’s call it a modern record), all Miami needs to do is bumrush its way through the playoffs and it can enter the conversation with the ’83 Sixers, ’86 Celtics, ’87 Lakers, ’96 Bulls and ’01 Lakers. Those were the truly dominant teams of the modern era.
But three quarters of the way through Game 2 of the Heat/Bucks series, Milwaukee was only down three points. Like a knee-jerk putz, I told the office crew, “Miami can’t get with those classic juggernauts, unless it goes, like, 14-2 in the playoffs and beats every squad by double-digits.”
But, of course, that’s not what went down with the other iconic squads – that’s just an example of time-aided mythologies.
Word, the ’86 Cs went 67-15 (40-1 at home), but they lost three times in the playoffs and had a grind-out win in every series. Two games into the playoffs, young Michael Jordan dropped 63 and took Boston to double-OT.
The 72-win Bulls gave up a chance to sweep the Sonics when Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp & Co. whooped ‘em by 21. The ’01 Lakers (67 wins in the regular season, 15-1 in the playoffs) had a few scares against the Kings in Western semis, then lost the first game of the Finals to Allen Iverson (basically) and had a battle on their hands for the first game in Philly.
Even Mo’ Malone’s “Fo-fo-fo” Sixers (one playoff loss) didn’t waltz through the playoffs without some bloody lips, courtesy of Bernard King.
So, no, Miami doesn’t have to sweep every series and win by 40 to eventually take on historic import. In fact, close games add to the lore.
Coincidentally, those thoughts I had heading into Game 2’s fourth quarter vanished quickly. Bucks coach Jim Boylan decided to sit Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis to start the fourth, even though Erik Spoelstra kept LeBron James on the floor. Before we could say Ersan Ilyasova, Miami was up 15.
The saga continues.