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Heat clinch playoff berth with 17th straight victory

The SportsXchange

MIAMI - With 22 games remaining in the regular season, the NBA's defending champion Miami Heat became the first team to clinch a postseason berth.

Miami also extended its winning streak to 17 games with a 102-93 victory over Philadelphia Friday night in front of 20,029 at AmericanAirlines Arena.

The victory tied the Clippers' 17-game win streak from Nov. 28-Dec. 30, 2012, as the longest such stretch in the league this season.

Down by one point with 11:45 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Heat scored 10 straight points to take control. Seven different Heat players scored in the final 12 minutes.

Opponents have now recorded 100 points or more in the past three games against the Sixers after accomplishing the feat only twice in 14 games prior. As a team, Miami outscored Philadelphia 60-38 in the paint as well as 55-42 in the second half.

"We've always snapped back and figured out a way," Dwyane Wade said of the current win streak. "I can't pinpoint exactly what it is, but it's great to be on a streak like this and to win this many games consecutively. You put things into perspective and I think a lot of us in here have been on teams with a record that wasn't so great. You just put things in perspective and understand the importance of it and don't take it for granted."

LeBron James scored a game-high 25 points as the Heat (46-14) beat the 76ers (23-38) for the 13th straight time. While Philadelphia's road losing streak was extended to 12 -- the organization's longest since a 20-game streak from Dec. 28, 1987-March 4, 1988 -- Miami remains unbeaten at home in its past 13 games.

Five Philadelphia players finished in double digits, paced by Thaddeus Young's 25. Former Heat guard Dorell Wright added 14 off the bench.

Wade and Chris Bosh scored 22 and 16 points, respectively, for the Heat. Ray Allen tallied 12 off the bench.

Wright knocked down three 3-pointers in the third quarter, the last of which temporarily gave Philadelphia a two-point lead.

But James' buzzer-beating three-point shot handed the Heat a 76-75 lead to end the third quarter.

"Obviously the run he's been on everybody's been talking about it," said Sixers center Spencer Hawes, who finished with 13 points. "It's hard to stop him when he's in that kind of zone and playing with that kind of aggressiveness. It snowballed on us a bit there and it turned out to be the game."

Miami fell behind by nine on Evan Turner's jumper with 8:18 remaining in the third quarter. But the Heat went on a 14-4 run, capturing their first lead since the second quarter on Bosh's acrobatic three-point play. Trailing by six, Udonis Haslem took a charge on Hawes as the Heat scored nine of the next 11 points. They made 10 of 12 shots in the third.

"Defensively guys were very active," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Chris Andersen was very active defensively, making things happen. A lot of people contributed defensively."

After a scoreless opening quarter, Charles Jenkins connected on back-to-back 3-pointers in the second period. That and Royal Ivey's bucket from behind the arc helped the 76ers jump out to a 38-33 lead with 8:45 left in the half.

Jenkins earned his first start with Philadelphia. He was acquired from the Warriors on Feb. 21.

When the Heat pulled within three in the second quarter on an Allen layup, Philadelphia ran out to a pair of eight-point leads. But Miami trimmed the halftime deficit to 51-47 on a Shane Battier 3-pointer and James free throws.

"I told the guys at halftime that we have to come out and be very aggressive to start the third quarter," Sixers coach Doug Collins said. "I thought we did a good job with that. It was just that the Miami Heat seized the momentum at the end of the third quarter and then LeBron was spectular in the fourth quarter."

The Heat outscored the 76ers 17-4 to close out the first quarter with a 28-24 lead, culminating with Allen's 3-pointer with 1.3 seconds left. James scored eight points during that span.

Held to just 29.8 percent 3-point shooting over their previous three games, the Sixers knocked down 10 of 21 Friday, including seven of their first nine of the game. They average 6.2 per game.

Still, Philadelphia fell to 0-16 when opponents shoot 50 percent or better.

"Last year's team ended up winning a championship, but I think this year's team has the potential to be better than last year's team," James said. "If we continue to not take any shortcuts or days off in the process of us trying to get better each and every day -- if we do that, we put ourselves in a position to compete for another championship."

NOTES: James' 3-pointer at 7:43 of the first quarter was the 1,000th of his career. ... Forward Juwan Howard was inactive. The 40-year-old signed a 10-day contract on Saturday. ... Battier's 3-pointer in the first quarter extended his streak of at least one basket from long distance to 18 straight games. ... Sixers guard Nick Young, who has missed five games with a left ankle sprain, was listed as NWT (Not With Team). Earlier in the season he sat out four games with a left big toe hyperextension. ... Up next: Philadelphia concludes its three-game road trip in Orlando Sunday evening. Miami continues its four-game homestand against the Pacers on Sunday night.
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