7:30 PM ET, March 12, 2013
AmericanAirlines Arena, Miami, FL
MIAMI -- Standing at his locker after yet another victory, LeBron James finally acknowledged the obvious.
This winning streak is something for the Miami Heat to savor.
Dwyane Wade scored 23 points and on a night where the stat sheet would suggest a struggle, the Heat rolled once again, extending their winning streak to 19 games and leading wire-to-wire in beating the Atlanta Hawks 98-81 on Tuesday.
"Let's be honest, guys," James said. "We're not sitting here and saying this is not something special. This is an unbelievable streak that we're on. We're playing great basketball. We're winning in different phases of the game, we're playing different styles, we've won every game, on the road, at home, double-overtime games, end-of-regulation games, whatever the case may be."
James scored 15 points and Chris Bosh and Mario Chalmers added 14 apiece for the Heat, who matched the fifth-longest streak in NBA history. They will try for their 20th straight win on Wednesday at Philadelphia, the start of a five-game trip.
Only three teams have won at least 20 consecutive games in the same season: the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers (33), the 2007-08 Houston Rockets (22) and the 1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks (20). The Washington Capitols also won 20 straight, spanning the end of the 1947-48 season and the start of the 1948-49 campaign.
"Ten is enough for me," Bosh said. "Twenty's cool. I'd take it."
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"Miami is playing very well right now. You have to give credit where credit is due," Hawks coach Larry Drew said. "Coach (Erik) Spoelstra and his staff over there are doing a great job. Their team is really moving the basketball, they are playing together, they are playing at a very, very high level right now, and they're really good right now. We just got beat by a really good basketball team."
That is, by a really good basketball team that had something really far removed from a really good offensive night.
The Heat shot only 43 percent and James was just 3 for 11 from the field, with the field-goal total matching his lowest from any regular-season game in more than three years.
And they won by 17.
"We read the game, we find ways to win, we find ways within the game that we can make adjustments," Wade said. "So yeah, it is kind of slowing down a little bit."
Good To Be The King, Better To Be Wade
Over the last ten games, Dwyane Wade is averaging over three more points per game than LeBron. And he's been extremely efficient in doing so.
Miami now leads San Antonio by 1½ games in the race for the NBA's best record and is atop the Eastern Conference by 9½ games over Indiana and New York, who were both idle Tuesday. The Heat (48-14) have 20 games left, while the Pacers have 19 and the Knicks 21.
It was the first game where the Heat went without trailing since Feb. 14, when they won at Oklahoma City in a surprisingly one-sided NBA Finals rematch. They've needed buzzer-beaters and double-overtimes and big rallies to win several times since, often against opponents who won't be headed to the playoffs, teams like Orlando and Cleveland and Sacramento.
The Hawks are headed to the postseason -- barring a most improbable collapse, anyway -- but this one was never in doubt.
Seven Miami players logged more than 3½ minutes of time in the first quarter, all seven of them scored, and the snowball started rolling. James was falling down near the 3-point line on one possession, yet still had the sense to just tap the ball to Wade for a layup that gave Miami an early 17-8 lead. And later, after Haslem missed inside, he got the rebound and fed Allen for a step-back corner 3-pointer that swished.
Yes, it's going that well for Miami right now.
"Leading with our defense has been the key for us," Wade said. "When we come out defensive minded from the beginning of the game, it gets us into the game, it gets us on the offensive end, we're moving the ball. We have been playing well offensively all year, but defense is the key."
The Hawks closed to 41-40 midway through the second quarter, the third -- and last -- time they were within a point. Miami needed just over two minutes to score the next 10 points, the run both starting and ending with 3-pointers from Chalmers, and the margin was 51-40.
As if the Heat needed any more help late in the first half, the often-enigmatic Smith gave them a little boost.
For no apparent reason, Smith fouled Bosh with 0.1 seconds left until intermission -- doing so about 80 feet from the Heat basket. Miami was in the bonus, so Bosh took two free throws, made both, and the Heat went into the break with a 57-44 lead.
An hour later, they were packing for Philadelphia and a chance to win No. 20.
"It's a privilege for us to get in our cars and hop on a plane and get into Philly at 4 a.m. after this win and do this again tomorrow night," Spoelstra said. "That's the way we're going to approach it. No excuses."
James was called for goaltending after blocking a shot by Ivan Johnson late in the third quarter. James didn't like the call, and if that wasn't enough, he swatted the ball into the leg of Bosh's wife, Adrienne, who was seated courtside. She was fine. ... The Hawks lost Teague with 3:08 left in the third quarter after he turned his left ankle. He returned to the bench later in the period after getting re-taped, but did not return to the game. ... Heat assistant coach David Fizdale shared a warm embrace with Drew a few moments before the game. Fizdale is a former Atlanta assistant.
MIAMI, FL - MARCH 12: Chris Bosh #1 of the Miami Heat drives against Al Horford #15 of the Atlanta Hawks at...(Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Around The Association
MVP: Dwyane Wade's nine second-quarter points pushed the Heat's lead to 57-44 at the half. They would never give up the lead as Wade finished with 23 points, 6 assists, 5 steals and 4 rebounds.
LVP: Kyle Korver made it 56 consecutive games in which he has hit a 3-pointer, but that was his only make of the night as he went 1-of-5 from the field.
That was expected: The injury-plagued Hawks have now lost six of their past seven games and traveled to play against LeBron James and a Heat team that has now won 19 straight.
Next 5 Games
Over the last ten games, Wade is averaging over three more points per game than LeBron. And he's been extremely efficient - nearly 60 percent from the field while dishing out 5.7 assists per game during that span.[+]
Last 10 Games
The Heat had 27 assists on 35 made baskets, their second-highest assist percentage of the season.[+]
Heat Highest Assist Percentage - This Season
Dwyane Wade had 23 points on 9 for 18 shooting, the 10th straight game he has scored at least 20 points while shooting at least 50%, the longest streak of his career. Wade was 7 for 10 in the restricted area Tuesday, and all nine of his made baskets came inside the paint.
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