A team that just a couple of months ago was accused by pundits of being bored with the regular season now has achieved what only one other defending NBA champion has: winning 19 games in a row.
And the Heat reached that plateau Tuesday without angst, drama or fourth-quarter suspense.
Disruptive defensively and balanced offensively, the Heat never led by fewer than 13 points in the final 14 minutes and coasted to a 98-81 win against Atlanta, thereby equaling the 2008-09 Celtics’ record for most wins in a row by a defending champion.
And Miami did it despite an uncharacteristically poor shooting night from LeBron James, who missed eight of his 11 attempts and closed with 15 points. He scored more from the line (9 for 12) than from the field. His three field goals were his fewest in a regular season game with the Heat — he also did that in a poor 2011 Finals game against Dallas — but it hardly mattered.
The Heat’s 19-game streak ties the fifth-longest in NBA history, and Miami can match two other teams for the third-longest streak by winning Wednesday night in Philadelphia to open a five-game road trip.
But Miami is still quite a ways off from matching the Lakers’ record 33-game streak.
“Let’s be honest,” James said of the streak. “We’re not saying this isn’t special. It’s an unbelievable streak. But we don’t want to get caught up in it.”
Coach Erik Spoelstra said he has not talked to his players about the streak because: “I don’t see how it helps us prepare for tomorrow. It really isn’t about the streak. We treat each game as its own…. I told them it’s a privilege for us to get into Philadelphia at 4 a.m. and go do this again” Wednesday night.
The Heat — whose 15-game home winning streak is three short of a franchise record — dispatched the Hawks with a balanced attack, with Dwyane Wade scoring 23, James 15, Chris Bosh and Mario Chalmers 14 apiece and Ray Allen 12. Udonis Haslem had 11 boards in 24 minutes.
“It’s only fitting if LeBron is struggling, we still have to make plays,” Bosh said. “That’s what this team is built on. It’s a very deep team.”
The Heat shot 42.7 percent from the field — well below its league-leading 49.6 average coming into the game. But Miami feasted at the foul line, hitting 22 of 30 shots compared with 10 of 14 for the Hawks.
Wade leads Heat past Hawks; win streak reaches 19
Miami Herald | Mar 13