Former Pistons great Isiah Thomas raved about the Heat before their victory over Detroit in Miami on Friday. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Miami — Pistons legend Isiah Thomas knows what LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the rest of the Miami Heat team are going through — trying to make history.
The defending NBA champion Heat have won 25 consecutive games after Friday's 103-89 victory over the Pistons, and they are eight wins from matching the 41-year-old record set by the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers (33 straight wins).
Thomas knows the feeling of dominance the Miami players are undoubtedly experiencing.
During the 1989-90 season, the second of the Pistons' back-to-back championship seasons, they went through a stretch of winning 25 of 26 games from Jan. 23 to March 20. Their only hiccup was a 112-103 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, which was sandwiched between a 13-game streak and a 12-game streak.
"When you're dominating like that, there's nothing like it in the NBA," said Thomas, an analyst for NBA TV and columnist for NBA.com.
"It's a feeling of, not only are you physically dominating, but mentally. What we saw in Cleveland and Boston, being 17 and 25 down, the mental aspect, once you roll off eight or nine (points) in a row, that (other) team is getting ready to crumble."
Although the Pistons blew teams away during that 26-game stretch, winning by 20 points or more six times, they won some close ones as well, as the Heat have during this stretch.
Those championship Pistons believed they had an enormous mental edge, Thomas said. Having an opponent walk into a building knowing it had little chance to compete was the Pistons' biggest advantage.
"Before you step on the floor, they know they're gonna lose," Thomas said. "It's a matter of how much they'll lose by. From their body language, their coach talking before the game. They come to arena to lose.
"The fans expect them to lose. They want them to keep it close. And you on the other side, yeah, keep it close, but if you try to win, we're gonna embarrass you."
Typically, Thomas said, championship teams start to focus in after the All-Star break, when the regular-season malaise begins to fade and the playoffs start to look like less of a mirage. The catalyst for the Pistons' hot streak was a 107-97 loss to the L.A. Lakers at the Palace in an NBA Finals rematch from the previous June. Thomas, ironically, was ejected in the final minutes for hitting Mychal Thompson.
"That made us recommit," he said. "With these winning streaks, a championship team going for back-to-back, you're really playing for the playoffs unless you're playing for home court. With the Heat and for us, now you're interested."
He sees James' on a march to history, just as Thomas was that year.
To that point, only the Magic Johnson-led Lakers had won back-to-back titles in the previous 20 years. Not even Larry Bird or Julius Erving accomplished that feat.
"Anybody can win one," Thomas said. "There's a lot of people who can win one, so you're in a group of others.
"How do I separate myself among the champions? Back to back."