Nobody said it was going to be easy. Nobody said it had to be pretty, either.
The Miami Heat have won in a variety of ways over the course of this now-20-game-winning streak and this 98-94 win over the Philadelphia 76ers shared similarities with a number of matchups against the inferior opponents of the league.
A game that should have been put away wasn’t; something similar we’ve also seen against the likes of Cleveland, Orlando, and Minnesota. Despite clearly being the better team, the Heat continue to play down to the lesser teams of the league.
But, somehow and someway, the Heat usually find a way to pull through. That includes tonight, where the Heat saw a 12-point halftime lead turn into a three-point deficit late in the fourth quarter.
Not even the opportunity to win 20 consecutive games, eventually becoming the fourth team in NBA history to do so, could rattle the Heat out of the momentary lapses in-and-out of consciousness.
Twice the Heat had a ten-point lead in the fourth, only to allow uncontested perimeter jumpers and offensive rebounds. Four of Philadelphia’s eight three-pointers came in the final frame.
It still wasn’t enough. LeBron James might have struggled with his shot in the second half (1/8), but was effective from the line hitting five of his six free throw attempts in the final four minutes.
James finished with 27 points, eight assists, and seven rebounds. He will have at least two plays on tomorrow’s NBA.com’s Top Ten.
The Heat are one of the few teams in the league that can get away with having their top player score one-field in an entire second half. Dwyane Wade redeemed himself of two costly turnovers that fueled the Sixers comeback by tipping in a missed layup by LeBron.
James had the go-ahead point after hitting a free throw 1:12 remaining. The Heat forced a turnover on the next possession. LeBron and Dwyane would both make a pair of free throws to seal the game.
Dwyane had an otherwise efficient night, without including his two disturbingly careless turnovers, going off for 21 points on 14 shots and eight rebounds.
Ray Allen and Shane Battier both hit a pair of three-pointers for Miami’s five on the night. Chris Andersen had one of his better games in a Heat uniform, finishing with ten points and five rebounds in 16 minutes.
He had four points on free-throw line jumpers. It was weird.
The 20-game winning streak matches the 1971 Milwaukee Bucks and Washington Capitols for third all time. The 2008 Houston Rockets, a former team of Shane Battier’s, won 22 games.
The record was set by one of the greatest teams ever put together in NBA history. The 1972 Los Angeles Lakers, consisting of Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain, and Gail Goodrich, won 33 consecutive games.
If Miami brought out the effort and consistency they showed tonight, the winning streak won’t go on much longer. The Heat surrendered a 24 point-15 rebound performance to Thaddeus Young, who put up a goose egg in the scoring column in the fourth.
Miami has now won three games against the Sixers this season, winning two in the past week. They also improved to an NBA-best 10-1 on the second night of back-to-backs.
They also had the look of a team that was on the second night of a back-to-back. It took them nearly three minutes to score four points and nearly six minutes to score six.
Only the Heat could find themselves on the brink of disaster and still pull through for a win. It’s a persistent and frustrating trend that the Heat have encountered throughout the season against teams they won’t see in the playoffs.
There are games that have a similar narrative to the one seen tonight. Did Jrue Holiday’s jumper onslaught bring about memories of C.J. Miles dropping three consecutive threes in a Heat win over Cleveland?
It hasn’t been sustainable, yet. Miami has found every possible way there is to win. It’s come to the point where they will play inspired basketball on one end of the floor for brief moments sporadically throughout the first three quarters, and even early into the fourth as seen today, and still pull out a victory.
The Heat don’t need to play the same type of basketball they play against Indiana for a team like Philadelphia. There is an obvious difference in the intensity of the defense that was seen between those two games.
The Heat’s “Revenge Tour” comes to a stop in Milwaukee this Friday. The Bucks won the second meeting by 19 points and mainly limited Miami to jumpers. The league’s leading shot-blocker Larry Sanders anchors the team that will potentially see Miami in the first round.