Once again, it was Shane Battier’s turn to speak.
The Heat’s forward delivered a rousing postgame speech in Toronto on Feb. 3 after the first game of the Heat’s winning streak and — by the request of his teammates — Battier was back in front of the team 42 days later on Sunday.
In that time span, the Heat hasn’t lost a game.
Miami’s 108-91 victory over the Raptors at Air Canada Centre extended the Heat’s winning streak to 22 games.
For Battier and the Heat, the day was doubly significant. The victory tied the Heat with the 2007-08 Houston Rockets for the second-longest winning streak in NBA history. Battier was on that team, too.
Naturally, he needed to say a few words.
On Monday, the Heat can reach 23 victories in a row.
A win in Boston and Miami can take aim at 1971-72 Lakers, who won 33 consecutive games.
“Someone said speech but I wasn’t prepared to speak,” Battier said. “But you always have something in your back pocket. I got filled with the spirit.”
Battier talked about enjoying what the team has accomplished but, “with anything, we have to leave it in past.”
Neither Battier nor his teammates would divulge the specifics of his postgame words but chances are they went something like this: We’ve tied the Rockets at 22. Let’s go get the Lakers at 33. Oh, and Paul Pierce wants us to lose every game.
“I don’t want to say like a politician, but he speaks like an absolute leader,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of Battier. “I didn’t even say a word to him. I just brought them together and Shane took it from there.”
A little suspense
About 30 minutes earlier, it was Battier and fellow sharpshooter Ray Allen who took over the game in the fourth quarter, but not before the Raptors made things interesting.
The Heat led by 13 points with 4:42 left in the third quarter, but the Raptors clawed back behind the streaky shooting of DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay. DeRozan’s pull-up jumper from 20 feet with 0.9 of a second left in the third quarter cut the Heat’s lead to three points — 76-73 — entering the final period.
DeRozan had 10 points in the third quarter, and Gay had 14.
A pair of free throws by Gay with 11:08 left tied the score at 77.
The building swelled with excitement. Improbably, the Raptors had come back from down double-digits to tie the score against the defending champs and threaten their winning streak.
Then, in the blink of an eye, the champs devoured any hope of an upset like a greedy beast.
And the feast started with one of the best alley-oops of the season.
Following a driving layup by Allen, Norris Cole grabbed a long rebound off a miss by Gay, took a few dribbles and launched a 55-foot lob pass to Dwyane Wade, who finished the play with a two-handed dunk.
The pass by the Heat’s backup point guard soared over a pair of Raptors defenders who had tracked back to defend against an easy transition bucket. Didn’t matter. The pass was perfect.
“I thought the lob was great,” Wade said. “I’ve been getting [Mario Chalmers] to try and throw it like that. It was a perfect lob.
“I don’t really show a lot of emotions nowadays, but I got a little pumped up after that one.”
So did the rest of the team, which outscored the Raptors 31-14 to end the game after having the score tied at 77. The run included a sequence of four three-pointers from Allen and Battier that blew the game open in less than 90 seconds.
The game featured more efficient shooting from the team that already is on pace to finish with the best overall field-goal percentage in franchise history. Led by Allen, Wade and Chris Bosh, the Heat shot 58.2 percent from the field and totaled 31 assists.
Wade led the Heat with 24 points, going 10 of 15 from the field. He also had nine assists, three rebounds and a steal. Bosh was 7 of 10 from the field and 2 of 3 from three-point range for 18 points. Allen had 20 points off the bench, including 16 in the fourth quarter.
LeBron James finished two assists shy of a triple-double with 22 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists.
“I’m always open, and I practice them everyday,” Bosh said of his three-pointers. “I know it’s going to be an effective shot. I just have to step into it and knock it down and count three points.”