Miami (20-8) at Washington (6-18)

By NICOLINO DIBENEDETTO, STATS Writer Saturday, Dec 18, 2010 Tipoff: 7:00 pm EST Sat Dec 18, 2010

LeBron James(notes) is one reason the Miami Heat are on their longest winning streak in almost six years, but their strong defensive play might be the biggest factor.

Another meeting with the sputtering Washington Wizards isn’t likely to slow them down.

A night after a dazzling display on a grand stage, James looks to help extend the Heat’s run to 12 wins in a row when they visit the Wizards on Saturday night.

James leads Miami (20-8) with 24.2 points per game and 7.3 assists while adding 6.4 rebounds, and he’s right around those numbers during the team’s 11-game winning streak. While his offensive contributions are key, the Heat’s commitment defensively might be even more vital.

The Heat are the best defensive team in the NBA, allowing league lows of 91.1 points per game and 42.4 percent shooting. They’ve been even better over the last 11 games, holding opponents to an average of 86.0 points and 39.4 percent from the field - 26.8 from 3-point range.

The defensive scheme will likely be a big factor again if Miami is to continue its longest winning streak since a 12-game run Feb. 26-March 19, 2005.

James may also have something to do with it.

The superstar forward is coming off one of his most impressive displays of the season Friday, getting his 30th career triple-double in a 113-91 win at Madison Square Garden. James made 14 of 23 shots to finish with 32 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists and overpower New York - a team he spurned during free agency.

“Our goal is to play well every night,” James said. “It starts on the defensive end with us. When we defend, we’re a very, very dangerous team. We just try to wear teams down. Use our athleticism. Use our quickness. Use our defensive strategies to wear teams down.”

James may be in for another big performance offensively. He had 30 points in a 105-94 home win against the Wizards (6-18) to start this winning surge Nov. 29.

The other two members of the Big Three are also contributing, as Dwyane Wade(notes) and Chris Bosh(notes) scored 26 points each against the Knicks. All three stars totaled 76 points against the Wizards last month.

Wade is averaging 30.7 points over the last six games, and 31.7 in the five most recent matchups with Washington.

The Heat have won eight of the last nine meetings with the Wizards, including all four in the nation’s capital in that span.

That streak is likely to be extended, with the Wizards ranking among the worst defensive teams in the NBA, giving up an average of 105.8 points.

They’ve also dropped 10 of their last 11 games, allowing an average of 109.5 points during a six-game slide after falling 97-89 at New Jersey on Thursday.

It’s unclear if guard John Wall(notes) will be back in the lineup after missing two games and three of four with right knee tendinitis. The top pick in last June’s NBA draft, Wall is scoring 16.7 points per game with a team-leading 8.9 assists.

He missed the last meeting with Miami due to a bruised right knee.

The status of Andray Blatche(notes), who’s averaging 17.1 points and 7.7 rebounds but missed the last two games, is also uncertain due to a knee problem.

Gilbert Arenas(notes), the Wizards’ leader with an average of 17.3 points, will try to help pick up the slack. The veteran guard had 19 points with nine assists against the Nets, and posted 23 and seven, respectively, against Miami last month.

Despite Washington’s struggles, all six of its wins have come at home.

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Saturday, Dec 18