Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade thought it was “great ... in the larger scheme of things” that his team struggled to beat the lowly Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night for their 20th straight victory.
“Right now we’re preparing for the playoffs, so this was good, because we will have these same moments again,” Wade said after Miami rallied for a 98-94 victory.
LeBron James, who had 27 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, hit the go-ahead free throw with 1 minute, 12 seconds left, and Wade added four of his 21 points in the closing seconds to lift Miami (49-14).
The Heat became only the fifth team in NBA history to win at least 20 straight. The others were the 1971-1972 Lakers (33), the 2007-2008 Rockets (22), the 1970-1971 Bucks (20) and the 1947-1948 and 1948-1949 Washington Capitols (20), whose streak spanned two seasons.
The Heat also ran their winning streak over Philadelphia to 14.
“We just don’t panic,” James said. “Our main goal is to win the game. It’s not to blow a team out. Whatever the case may be, we just want to play the game. Wherever the game takes us in 48 minutes, we’re ready for it.”
Thaddeus Young had 24 points and 15 rebounds for the Sixers (24-40), who lost for the sixth time in seven games and the 13th time in 15 tries. Jrue Holiday had 21 points and seven assists.
The Heat held an 80-70 lead with 8:56 left, but the Sixers scored 15 of the game’s next 17 points to go up 85-82 with 4:38 to play. Holiday drilled a pair of three-pointers in that run, the first after falling to one knee and righting himself, and Dorell Wright added five of his 13 points.
Miami stormed back to claim an 89-87 lead on Ray Allen’s three-pointer with 3:11 to play.
The Sixers tied it on Evan Turner’s basket, and after Chris Bosh dropped in a layup with 2:30 left, Holiday stormed down the lane and dunked on James to forge the night’s last tie, at 91-91.
James then began the game-ending 7-3 run by making his free throw. After a Holiday turnover, James twice missed from point-blank range, but Wade was there for the tip-in with 29.4 seconds left.
He added two free throws with 22.3 seconds to play, and after Wright’s three-pointer cut the gap to 96-94, James sank two more foul shots with 18 seconds left.
“Regardless of who you’re playing or what’s laid out in front of you, you focus on the task at hand, and the guys took that to heart,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
“I’m sure the guys felt a little bit of fatigue going through there, but everybody has to deal with it,” he added.
Turner finished with 15 points for the Sixers. Allen had 12 and Bosh 10 for Miami. Chris Andersen also scored 10 for the Heat.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the way our guys fought, kept battling and battling and battling,” Sixers coach Doug Collins said. “We had a lot of guys play very, very well. At the end, [we] just couldn’t come up with that one rebound.”