Miami Heat's James celebrates a basket against Detroit Pistons during NBA game in Miami

Heat extend win streak to 25 straight games after toying with the Detroit Pistons


Technically speaking, the win streak of the Miami Heat, which has now reached 25 straight games after a 103-89 home win over the Pistons on Friday, is in jeopardy every time the Heat take the floor and the ball is tipped off, no matter the quality level of the opponent they may be facing.

In reality, it will take a meltdown of epic proportions, or simply a level of apathy not showcased all season by the defending champs in order for them to fall to a team that far below them in terms of overall talent, not to mention the league-wide standings.

Detroit got off to a solid start, and held a lead of 11 points with a little under four minutes to play in the second period. This was, of course, largely due to a complete disinterest defensively on the part of the Heat, who let Jose Calderon get loose for 16 points and six assists in the first half, while Greg Monroe posted 14 points on 6-7 shooting, to go along with seven rebounds and four assists in under 20 minutes of first-half action.

The second half was all Miami, as the Heat outscored the Pistons 52-35 over the game’s final two periods. LeBron James was essentially perfect, finishing with 29 points on 12-15 shooting, to go along with eight rebounds, eight assists, and a couple of steals.

The thing that the Heat have done consistently during this streak is turn on the defensive pressure seemingly with the flick of a switch whenever the team needs it the most. Coming back from double-digit deficits has been nothing to Miami during this span, thanks to the championship-level of defense that always seems to be ready and waiting, and along with it, an offense that can rely on James and Dwyane Wade getting buckets with relative ease when things get tight and the comeback has been engaged.

That can’t last forever, obviously, and at some point, the early hole the Heat dig for themselves will be too deep for them to crawl out of before the night’s 48 minutes are through.

Looking ahead at Miami’s schedule, the team will finish out March at home against the dismal Bobcats, before hitting the road to play Orlando, Chicago, New Orleans, and San Antonio.

As we’ve said all along, a predictable loss on the horizon against a decent team like the Bulls, or against an elite one like the Spurs, simply doesn’t seem like this Heat team’s style. It would appear as though if Miami’s streak is going to end anytime soon, it would come on a night where we least expect it.

The bizarre game in Cleveland earlier this week was a prime example of how this could happen. If the circumstances don’t conspire correctly against the Heat, however, they could tie the record for the longest win streak in NBA history at 33 games at home against the Sixers on April 3, and they would have a chance to set the all-time mark on April 9 at home against the Bucks.

51Q: Does Ty Lawson vault the Rockets into the top tier of championship contenders?

DENVER, CO - MARCH 07:  James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets controls the ball against Ty Lawson #3 of the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on March 7, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockets defeated the Nuggets 114-100. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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I see five clear upper-echelon championship contenders –  Warriors, Spurs, Clippers, Thunder and Cavaliers.

Do the Rockets belong in that group, or do they fill the next tier by themselves?

Ty Lawson – acquired for pennies on the dollar – could put Houston over the top.

But, really, this premise might not be fair to the Rockets. They earned the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference last season and reached the conference finals last season. James Harden finished second in MVP voting. Dwight Howard looked like a star during the playoffs. The supporting cast – Trevor Ariza, Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas, Patrick Beverley, Corey Brewer and even Jason Terry – played better than anyone expected. Young players like Clint Capela, K.J. McDaniels, Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell could make a leap at any moment.

There’s a case to be made we should have taken Houston more seriously even before trading for Lawson.

I didn’t, though, and I don’t think many others did either.

I suspect one of the biggest reasons is the Rockets’ balance. Houston – 12th in points scored per possession, sixth in points allowed per possession – was one of only two teams to win more than 51 games last season without ranking top five in either category. Of the seven teams with so many victories, the Hawks – sixth, seventh – were the only other. Atlanta was a darling team, winning 60 games after going 38-44 the season prior. The Rockets’ modest win increase, from 54 to 56, drew less attention.

But balance shouldn’t be punished. Houston’s surprisingly strong defense should be celebrated. Lawson might push its middling offense over the top.

There are reasons to question that, though.

The biggest is Lawson’s sobriety. If he’s not focused and engaged, this all goes out the window. His comments about going to rehab only because it was court-ordered raise doubts, though they hardly foretell anything.

Let’s say Lawson’s off-court problems are behind him. How big of an upgrade is he? The Rockets already had a pretty good point guard who fit well with Harden in Beverley. Lawson is a clear offensive upgrade, but in the biggest moments, the ball will still run through Harden. At that point, would you rather have Beverley or Lawson on the floor? Beverley is a far superior defender, and his off-ball offensive game isn’t far from Lawson’s. Beverley is is a fine spot-up shooter, and Lawson’s strengths involve having the ball and creating. Lawson’s biggest boost could come when Harden sits, but that was fewer than 12 minutes per game last season.

Sure, a secondary ball-handler could ease pressure on Harden throughout a long regular season. Lawson and Harden can take turns running the attack.

But we’re talking about title contention, and in those high-leverage situations, it’s Harden’s show. How much does Lawson matter then?

The Rockets have a chance to win a championship. As good a chance as the NBA’s five best teams? I’m not so sure.

UNLV following Kentucky’s lead with combine for NBA scouts

Goodluck Okonoboh, Patrick McCaw
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Kentucky held a two-day combine last season for NBA scouts.

Now, LSU and UNLV are following suit.

Rob Dauster of NBC Sports:

The Runnin’ Rebels will hold their event on October 23rd and 24th at the Mendenhall Center, UNLV’s practice facility, sources told The expectation is that all 30 NBA teams will be in attendance.

LSU has potential No. 1 pick Ben Simmons and another first-round prospect in Tim Quarterman.

UNLV features lottery prospect Stephen Zimmerman.

This won’t replace scouts attending games and watching practices, but the fact that all 30 teams plan to attend shows how seriously the pro league takes these. No college team wanted John Calipari to have that competitive advantage in recruiting, so the smart ones are leveling the field with their own combines. Soon, more college teams will follow.

As the calendar gets packed, NBA teams might have to pick and choose which they attend. At that point, we might get little clues about which prospects they’re scouting hardest.