“For the rest of eternity, they’ll show that ‘Longest NBA Winning Streaks’ graphic during an NBA game and viewers will say, “’72 Lakers, ’08 Rockets, ’00 Lakers, ’71 Bucks … wait a second, what????”
– Bill Simmons, 2009 NBA Western Conference Preview
With their wins over the Bucks and Raptors that pushed them to 22 consecutive W’s, the Miami Heat have joined some historic company — championship-winning teams, historic assemblages of Hall of Fame talent, teams that get books written about them and special anniversary nights at their home arenas dedicated to them.
They also joined the 2007-08 Houston Rockets, a team that went 55-27, finished as the five seed in the Western Conference, then lost to the Utah Jazz in six games in the first round of the playoffs.
It’s not really possible to win 22 consecutive games and still fly under the radar, but if it was, the 2008 Rockets would have done it. Even at the time, you wondered why people weren’t making a big deal out of the streak, even though you pretty much understood why — at no point during their historic streak did it really seem like the Rockets were a Finals contender, the best team in the league or even the best team in the West, where the Lakers were surging after the league-rocking Pau Gasol trade, the Spurs were mounting a title defense for the fourth time in nine years and even the Hornets were congealing around their MVP-candidate point guard and starting to look like a real threat. The Rockets were a cute distraction, but few saw them as championship material, especially after they lost one of their core players to a mid-season injury.
Yet the ’08 Rockets did something that, up until last night, only one other team in NBA history had managed to achieve. How’d they do it? Well, in essence, they were a team that came together around a superstar in his last stretch of near-dominance, with role players both veteran and inexperienced stepping up around him, and a relatively soft mid-season schedule (15 of the 22 games were at home, and 12 against non-playoff teams) that allowed momentum to build, before the inevitable regression to the mean reared its ugly head.
Since we probably haven’t thought much about them in the last five years before the Heat went supernova, and we might not have cause to think about them again for sometimes afterwards, I figured a little retrospect was in order. Here are 10 things you may or may not remember about that weird-ass Rockets team and their weird-ass 22-game winning streak.
1. They went 24-20 before the streak began.
The Rockets went all of 2007 outside of the playoff picture in their first season under new head coach Rick Adelman, with incumbent Jeff Van Gundy having been canned in the offseason, after losing in the first round for the third time in his four seasons as head coach (this time after having been up 3-2). The team ended ’07 with a 15-16 record, but started to find a groove in early January, ironically with nominal franchise player Tracy McGrady out with injury, as the team banged out a five game win streak (with other nominal franchise player Yao Ming averaging a 26 and eight on 58 percent shooting). They then grabbed another four straight a few games later (this time with T-Mac back in tow), before achieving liftoff, winning against the Warriors on Jan. 29th and not losing again until March 18th.
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