ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) – LeBron James left one rebound shy of a triple-double, feigning a bit of frustration as he checked out of the game.
That’s about all the Miami Heat could complain about these days.
James finished with 24 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds, and the Heat won their 27th straight game by running away in the final minutes to beat the Orlando Magic 108-94 Monday night.
Mario Chalmers scored 17, and Chris Bosh and Ray Allen each added 12 for Miami, which broke open a tie game with a 13-0 run spanning the end of the third and start of the fourth quarters. Miami eventually pushed the lead to 20 before Heat coach Erik Spoelstra emptied the bench in what became his 250th win with the team.
The Heat now are within six games of matching the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers for the longest winning streak in NBA history.
Jameer Nelson had 27 points and 12 assists for the Magic, who got 20 points from Tobias Harris.
A 20-2 run over 4½ minutes spanning the third and fourth quarters was all it took for Miami to take control for good, and beat the Magic for the third time in three meetings this season – after surviving a pair of earlier nail-biters.
It’s now the second-longest winning streak in American major sports, behind only the Lakers’ run. Baseball’s New York Giants won 26 straight games in 1916, the New England Patriots took 21 consecutive NFL games in 2003 and 2004, and the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins won 17 consecutive times in 1993.
For the Heat, it’s 27 and counting.
This one, like so many others lately, hardly came easily, with Miami not putting the game away until the second half.
Both teams were missing key components, Dwyane Wade for Miami and Nik Vucevic for Orlando.
Wade missed his second straight contest with a sore right knee, one that he said before the game had been bothering him periodically since March 9 and then flared up after a collision against Boston last week. He had an MRI exam over the weekend to rule out any major problems and will be listed as day-to-day before the game in Chicago Wednesday.
Vucevic sat his third straight game while dealing with a mild concussion. Vucevic averaged a staggering 22.5 points and 25 rebounds in two games against Miami earlier this season. Compounding the injury issues for Orlando was losing power forward Andrew Nicholson, the team’s first player off the bench Monday, to a sprained left ankle just 1:52 after he checked in for what was the only time.
A 9-2 run early in the third gave Miami what was then its biggest lead, 64-53. Instead of deflating the Magic, it seemed to almost inspire the hosts, who answered with probably their best 5-minute stretch of the game, capped by a 3-pointer by Nelson with 3 minutes left that tied the game at 68-all.
And when James missed a layup at the other end, then got called for a foul after the rebound, Orlando may very well have been thinking that the streak could soon be snapped.
Miami needed only two minutes to close the quarter with 10 unanswered points, with James doing either the orchestrating or performing. He got loose on a curl for a dunk to start the run, and the Heat took off.
Chris Andersen – the Heat are now 29-1 when he plays – got Miami the ball with a spectacular block against Maurice Harkless. James then cleared everyone out to drive on Harkless, score and get fouled for a three-point play.
That was part of a rough few moments for the rookie out of St. John’s.
Harkless threw the ball into the sideline seats on Orlando’s next possession, and James found Allen for a 3-pointer. Harkless had another turnover with 19.5 seconds left and then fouled James with 4.2 ticks remaining. James missed both shots, but got his own rebound, was fouled by Harris and made those two ensuing free throws for a 78-68 Miami lead.
The run didn’t stop there. Allen started the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer, pushing Miami’s edge to 81-68 as Orlando’s Beno Udrih – who was 0 for 8 from the field at that point – lay writhing in pain under the basket after apparently being hit in the face.
It was injury to insult, at that point.
Norris Cole lobbed one off the glass to James for a dunk and an 83-70 lead, Allen made another 3-pointer on the next possession, James set up Andersen for an alley-oop dunk as half the arena roared in delight as the reigning champions pushed the margin to 18.
Streak, not over.