Reigning NBA champions the Miami Heat pushed the second-longest winning streak in NBA history to 23 games on Monday with a 105-103 victory in Boston that gave the historic run its toughest test.
LeBron James sank the game-winning basket with 10.5 seconds remaining and Shane Battier made two key plays after that to continue the second-hottest run in the 67-year history of the NBA.
“We were down a lot of times tonight, more than we would like to be, but we kept our chemistry going and got one more play,” James said.
Only the 1971-1972 Los Angeles Lakers, who own the all-time record of 33 wins in a row, have had a longer NBA winning streak than Miami’s epic run.
James scored 37 points, and added 12 assists and seven rebounds for the Heat, while Mario Chalmers added 21 points, Dwyane Wade contributed 16 and Chris Bosh netted 13.
Miami test the streak next in Cleveland, Ohio, today.
“It means we got better once again,” James said when asked how it felt to win the dramatic contest and to stretch the streak. “It was a hostile environment. For us to come in here and get a win today was awesome.”
The Heat, who last tasted defeat on Feb. 1 in Indiana, matched the 2007-2008 Houston Rockets for the second-best all-time victory run by winning on Sunday in Toronto.
Shane Battier was a member of the Rockets during their epic winning streak, as was Chinese superstar Yao Ming, but it was the Celtics who ended Houston’s run in 2008 and the Celtics planned on doing the same to Miami, despite the absence of starting center Kevin Garnett, who missed the game with the flu and a strained left thigh.
“We knew no matter who is in uniform for those guys, they have a championship DNA and we were going to have to work for it,” James said.
Jeff Green proved him right, connecting on five-of-seven three-pointers and 14-of-21 total shots from the field for a career-high 43 points, the most for any Boston player this season and the most surrendered by the Heat to any opposing player all season.
After an 18-4 Miami run gave the Heat the lead, Boston’s Avery Bradley, who missed eight of his first 10 shots, sank a three-pointer from the left corner to put the Celtics ahead 103-101 with 1 minute, 49 seconds remaining.
James answered with a layup to equalize at 103-103 and each team made a stop defensively to leave the ball in Boston’s hands.
Brandon Bass missed a layup and Dwyane Wade rebounded for Miami as the tension mounted in the final seconds.
James took the ball and sank a 20-foot jumper while being guarded by Green to put Miami ahead by the final margin.
Boston took the ball and Green drove to the basket, but Battier knocked the ball out of bounds with 7.2 seconds to play. The Celtics then inbounded to Pierce, who missed a three-pointer, and Wade grabbed the rebound.
After a Boston foul on Miami’s first inbound attempt, Battier took the ball out of bounds, bounced the ball off the back of Pierce, then stepped inbounds himself and grabbed the ball as the final buzzer sounded on Boston’s upset bid.
The loss snapped an 11-game home winning streak for the Celtics, who fell to 36-30. Miami improved the best record in the NBA this season to 52-14.