Heat are riding one of the most inexplicable streaks in NBA history

Issac Baldizon / National Basketball Association / Getty

Over the 71-year history of the National Basketball Association, there have been 902 winning streaks that spanned at least seven games.

That list includes impressive, all-time runs belonging to legendary teams like the 1972 Lakers, 2016 Warriors, and 2013 Heat, but it's the latest, and one of the shortest of those 902 streaks that might be the unlikeliest of all.

When the Miami Heat entered AmericanAirlines Arena for their Jan. 17 game against the 32-11 Houston Rockets, they held an 11-30 record that ranked 29th overall. Leaving the court with a victory over Houston would be miraculous enough - that win preceding six more, including a triumph over the 38-6 Golden State Warriors, would be simply inexplicable.

Even in the midst of such a stunning streak, the Heat still hold a pitiful winning percentage of .375, which got us thinking: just how unprecedented is this sequence of events?

As it turns out (after extensive research through Basketball Reference's franchise index), only two teams in NBA history who finished a season with a winning percentage of .375 or lower recorded a seven-game win streak in the same season. (No team has won eight straight in a sub-.375 season.)

Team Record when streak began (Rank) Opponent win% during streak Final record
1983-84 Bulls 5-14 (22/23) .635 27-55
1986-87 Spurs 11-29 (22/23) .452 28-54
2016-17 Heat 11-30 (29/30) .511 ?

The 1983-84 Bulls had the worst pre-streak record (by mere percentage points compared to this year's Heat) of the three teams in question, faced the toughest schedule, and finished with the worst record, barring Miami winning less than nine games the rest of the way. So for now, the '84 Bulls can probably lay claim to the most unlikely seven-game win streak of all time.

That brings us to Monday night, when the Heat host the league-worst Brooklyn Nets (who they beat five days ago) and will enter a contest as favorites for only the third time in their last 19 games. Should Miami take care of Brooklyn, as expected, it would mark the 576th time a team has won at least eight straight.

Of the 575 previous such streaks, only nine belonged to teams who finished with losing records.

Digging even deeper, the most optimistic full-season Heat projection is 34-48, good for a winning percentage of .415 (four different projection models peg Miami between 32-34 wins). Should the Heat beat the Nets on Monday, and win less than 35 games overall - both likely scenarios - they would join the 2004-05 Warriors as the only teams in NBA history to win eight straight in a sub-.415 season. (No team has won nine straight in a sub-.415 campaign.)

Team Record when streak began (Rank) Opponent win% during streak Final record
2004-05 Warriors 23-45 (26/30) .484 34-48
2016-17 Heat 11-30 (29/30) .469 ?

Facing the deplorable Nets twice in the midst of a potential eight-game winning streak would see the Heat encounter a slightly worse strength of schedule than the 2004-05 Warriors did during Golden State's eight-game run, but that Warriors team was also nowhere near as hapless before their streak began as this year's Heat, who were on pace for 60 losses midway through the season.

Not to mention, the Heat would have to win at least 15 of their final 33 games after beating Brooklyn to match the 2005 Warriors' 34-48 record, which may still be too generous a projection.

Basically, if the Heat win tonight, there's a lot of evidence to suggest they'd be the worst team ever with a winning streak this long.

In a season that's already produced plenty of drama and a plethora of warped stat lines, it might be the Heat's last two weeks of January that prove most confounding to future historians who stumble upon the 2016-17 record books.

Comments
Heat are riding one of the most inexplicable streaks in NBA history
  Got something to say? Leave a comment below!

Daily Newsletter

Get the latest trending sports news daily in your inbox