News Column

The Heat Is on as LeBron and Miami Win 27 in a Row

March 26, 2013

Tom D'Angelo

LeBron James (file photo)
LeBron James (file photo)

By the fourth quarter, after a second 13-0 run had essentially sealed No. 27 in a row, the Miami Heat started playing to the star-studded Amway Center crowd.

First it was LeBron James throwing one down off an over-the-shoulder lob from Norris Cole. Then it was James tossing a 30-foot, one-handed alley-oop off the dribble to his new favorite target, Chris Andersen.

Miami's 108-94 victory over the lowly Orlando Magic on Monday night was as much about the entertainment value as it was to extend the streak.

"That's the fun part of the game," Cole said. "Being able to throw the ball anywhere near the rim and having the athletes to dunk it. That's the part of the game we enjoy."

Miami already commands rock-band-like attention, but the streak has ramped up the interest, making the Heat a must-see event on the local celebrities' calendars. On Monday, CC Sabathia, Jason Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Ken Griffey Jr. from the baseball world and golfer Bubba Watson were in attendance. Seats remained vacant for Tiger Woods, who never showed up after his victory at Bay Hill earlier Monday.

After James hit a long turnaround sideline jumper for the last of his 24 points, Verlander, the 2011 AL MVP and Cy Young award winner, raised his hands as if to say, "What can you do?"

The Magic had no answers for James or the Heat during a stretch in which they outscored Orlando 35-15 to open a 20-point lead with four minutes remaining.

"That was some of our best (basketball)," said coach Erik Spoelstra, who collected his 250th win, reaching the milestone quicker than any Heat coach. "In that fourth quarter, on both ends, the activity level ... before that it was more of a sleepwalk."

While the Heat have sometimes been dominant during the streak -- 17 of the wins have been by double digits -- they also have received a few breaks in the last week.

Boston was without Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo, and Cleveland was without three key players, including Kyrie Irving. The Magic held out center Nik Vucevic, who missed his third straight game as he recovers from a concussion sustained March 19. Vucevic has 45 points and 50 rebounds in two games against the Heat this season.

The Heat, though, were without Dwyane Wade for a second straight night because of a bruised right knee.

"I understand when you have something that's lingering it can affect other areas on your body," Wade said before the game. "It's just trying to be smart, understanding what's coming down for us as a team."

Wade, who had an MRI that showed no structural damage, said he hopes to play Wednesday in Chicago.

James had 11 assists and nine rebounds to go with his 24 points. But after Mario Chalmers' 17 points the biggest contributors were the reserves with Ray Allen scoring 12, Rashard Lewis 11 and Cole nine with four assists.

"Our second unit is coming in with a great deal of confidence," Spoelstra said.

The Heat had a nine-point halftime lead but the Magic tied it at 68 on a three by Jameer Nelson (27 points) before James, who was named Eastern Conference player of the week on Monday for the sixth time this season, finally took over with seven points in the final two minutes of the third quarter.

"We've seen it all," James said. "We've sustained runs. We know teams are going to make runs. It's how we come out of it and we were able to withstand their run when they tied it up."

The Heat are now within six games of catching the all-time record of 33 set by the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers, a team on which Heat President Pat Riley was a backup guard.

Riley has been notably silent on the streak even as many of his former Lakers teammates, including Jerry West, have been vocal. Riley sent word on Monday through a spokesperson that his silence is because of superstition, saying it's "akin to not wanting to talk about a no-hitter" while it's in progress.



Source: (c)2013 The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Fla.) Distributed by MCT Information Services