Heat 102, 76ers 93

Miami Heat beats Philadelphia 76ers, extends streak, clinches playoff berth

 

LeBron James scored 25 points and Dwyane Wade had 22 as the Heat won its 17th game in a row and clinched a playoff berth.

a1fernandez@MiamiHerald.com

How cool and calm is LeBron James during this winning streak?

At a crucial stage of Friday’s game against the Sixers, James chased a loose ball out of bounds that landed near half-court.

Instead of turning around, he stopped, grabbed a Fox Sports microphone and mimicked a brief play-by-play broadcast.

James’ confidence has been contagious.

The Heat sputtered early, but once again came back to win and extend its franchise-record winning streak with a 102-93 home victory against Philadelphia at AmericanAirlines Arena.

“Even though [the Sixers] had a lead, and we had to play catch up, the important thing is we continued to get better and get everybody involved,” James said.

The Heat won its 17th game in a row matching the Clippers for the longest winning streak by any team this season. It is the 12th-best all-time regular season streak in league history and tied the 1959-60 Boston Celtics for the third-longest ever by a defending champion.

The Heat’s streak also reached the top spot among South Florida’s professional sports franchises’ longest for regular season games.

The 17 consecutive wins gives the Heat a longer regular-season winning streak than the Dolphins, Marlins or Panthers have ever had in their respective franchise histories.

“I think it’s one of those that we’ll look back on [later] and maybe it will hit us,” Chris Bosh said. “When you’re in it, you’re concentrating on one game at a time. Because of that we don’t have time to celebrate.”

The victory had the most meaning since it made the Heat (46-14) the league’s first team to clinch a playoff spot. With 22 games remaining, it is the fastest the Heat has ever clinched a playoff berth in its history.

The Heat remained eight games ahead of the rest of the field in the Eastern Conference – a group that is currently led by the Indiana Pacers, Miami’s next opponent. The Pacers are the last team that beat the Heat, 102-89 on Feb. 1 at Indiana.

“We played a very physical series equivalent to what a seven-game series would be like [last season],” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “With another year of experience, they have become much more confident and played two very good games against us. We’re looking forward to Sunday.”

The Heat won its 13th consecutive home game, and beat the Sixers for the 13th consecutive time, holding them under 100 points for the ninth straight time. The Heat plays the Sixers again Wednesday in Philadelphia.

James finished with another double-double, 25 points and 10 rebounds, and had five assists. James also made two three-pointers, the first of which was the 1,000th of his career.

His commentator moment came with the Heat trailing by one point just before he sparked a 10-0 surge early in the fourth quarter that put Miami ahead for good.

Two driving layups, including the latter that drew a fifth foul on Sixers’ center Spencer Hawes, helped the Heat seize control.

Hawes had 13 points and 10 rebounds, and along with a sharp three-point shooting performance, kept the Heat behind through most of the first half and early third quarter.

The Sixers (23-38), who had shot only 29.8 percent from three-point range in their previous three games, made 7 of 10 three-point shots in the first half.

Jrue Holiday made another early in the third and Philadelphia took a nine-point lead with 8:18 left in the period. But the Sixers made only 2 of 10 threes from that point on.

Wade, who entered the game shooting a career-best 52.2 percent from the field for the season, continued his accurate ways.

Wade shot 9-for-16 and finished with 22 points. He also had three steals, having at least one for the 21st consecutive game.

Wade was one of four Heat players with at least four assists, joining James, Bosh and Mario Chalmers.

Bosh finished with 16 points on 7 of 14 shooting to go along with four rebounds and four assists.

“The 23 assists are very deceptive,” Spoelstra said. “This is one of our better ball-movement games. We were helping each other get open looks and being aggressive.’’

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